Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Gemini: LFF Review

Being a star in Hollywood is hard, eh....

Aaron Katz’s dreamy, drifting cirrus cloud of an LA Noire is an absolute triumph: a cool, collected, and beautiful mumblecore tableaux – even if the cumulative effect is a little inconsequential.

Lola Kirke stars as Jill, a Hollywood agent to Heather (Zoe Kravitz), an infamous film star who’s going through a bit of a rough patch: refusing to do reshoots, bailing on long-term projects, and not turning up to interviews. Heather’s just gone through a break-up, and the closeness of the pair has led the media to speculate that they’re an item. After her body is discovered in Jill’s apartment, riddled with bullets from her gun, an investigation headed by Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho) begins which appears to implicate her in the crime. Determined to clear her name, she sets out across a dreamy Los Angeles to find answers.

Aaron Katz’s film opens on a sea of palm trees against a stark inky night, except there’s something off: they’re all upside down. Slowly, but surely, the camera revolves as the titles roll and synth-jazz plays, revealing that, in fact, they weren’t inverted at all – we were. This effect is a microcosmic encapsulation of the atmosphere and direction of Gemini as a whole: the answers are simple, we just need to re-evaluate the facts to figure out the truth. Katz’s central thesis is elegant, understated, and meditative – informing the pacing of the film, which washes over the audience like gentle evening waves on Venice Beach.

It’s a pitch-perfect neo-noire: all synth and jazz, deserted streets and internal conflict. LA has always, fittingly, been a photogenic presence in its own cinematic creations, and Gemini is no different. With it’s long, winding roads and contrasts between hectic city and eerily tranquil hillside, Katz makes the most of the conceit that Jill’s hometown becomes a very different place once she’s on the run within it. It’s a collage of visual ideas that frequently took my breath away, even though it’s not inhabiting ground-breaking territory.

Given the subject matter, there’s a lot of dialogue and little action, but Katz excels in keeping the audience engaged. Playing on the relationship between actors and assistants, there’s some fantastic work around illuminating how friendship, employment, and wealth collide in such an engagement: Heather and Jill are best friends who share secrets, party together, and spend their lives in each other’s company – but they’re not equals in the eyes of society. At the end of the day, Heather is an uber-famous actor, and Jill is just an assistant paid to look after her. An interesting situation, and one that’s fully fleshed out here.

Despite its methodical excellence, when the final denouement arrives, it lands without the fanfare one would expect – and, as such, it lacks impact. It’s not hard to feel a little bit incredulous when such an important reveal gets shrugged off as if it’s a casual conversation, and not the crux of a 2-hour film. But perhaps that was always the point: the answers in life aren’t always so sensationalist as they are in the movies.

The cumulative effect is nothing short of hypnotic: mesmerising, pulsating, and cool. The leisurely pace may prove a turn-off for some viewers, but for fans of the noire genre, Katz’s take on its quirks and hallmarks is a true aesthetic pleasure. 
Gemini gets 4 stars!

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