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A dark bizarre 80's film that's rare and hard to find.
NateManD13 July 2005
"Static" is such an awesome movie, but has seemed to of faded away into obscurity. Director Mark Romanek, has also directed the "Nine Inch Nails" music video, "closer" and more recently "One Hour Photo". Keith Gordon of "Christine" and Amanda Plummer of "Pulp Fiction" give good performances. Also, the film has some (as they'd say in the 80's) totally awesome new wave music. I wish I could find the soundtrack. The story concerns Ernie Blick (Keith Gordon) a small town inventor who works at a crucifix factory. He has created a machine in which he believes can show people images of heaven. His long time friend Julia (Amanda Plummer) who plays keyboard in a new wake rock band, is in town for the Christmas holiday. Poor Ernie wants to see his dead parents in heaven. Probably because his mom and dad were much less annoying than his uncle, who's a fanatical religion crazed street preacher. Ernie is convinced his machine works, because he can see the images of heaven. When he gathers people around to see his invention, all that comes up on the screen is static. Ernie becomes frustrated, because people think he's insane. The film is simply amazing and unpredictable. Not to mention, it has a diner shaped like a fish. Actor Keith Gordon went on to direct the late 80's dark satirical teen melodrama "the Chocolate War". I highly recommend both films. Now if only they'd release both these movies on DVD.
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A flawless example of what an independent film is all about
hippiedj19 November 2000
Nowadays it seems indie festivals are the chic thing and filmmakers are trying too hard to get the status that winners of those "prestige" events get. If they would only look back to 1985 to a film like Static, they could learn a thing or two.

This film paces itself, and while never snappy, it uses its time wisely. While a melancholy mood prevales, we still are affected in many ways by the different characters we are introduced to.

The story is quite simple: A young man, not quite over the death of his parents, uses his skills as an inventor to come up with a device that may or may not monitor images of heaven. Through the interaction of several eccentric yet not exaggerated characters, they (and we) learn lessons about hope, desperation, and acceptance.

The film's use of desert landscape adds a lot to the feeling of loneliness (instead of film economics), the careful selection of songs for the soundtrack actually ties in with each scene--from songs by The The to Elvis! Keith Gordon obviously had a hand in that part, as with his choice of songs for his next film The Chocolate War. Goes to show you don't have to look for trendiness or a hit soundtrack to sell, which can date a film and make it lose its power over the years. Static was made in 1985 and hasn't lost an ounce of effectiveness.

There are so many little nuances that will have you hooked, from Ernie's collection of defective crucifixes to Ernie asking Julia why she kissed him: "'Cause you're a strange boy ...I wish I was more like you," it's brilliant. I've seen this film many times and it still has the power to hit me emotionally without fail every single time. I always have a really good cry when I see Amanda Plummer's last smile as she's driving.

Admittedly, films are a form of escapism and all don't have to be made exclusively for intellectual reasons, but when you want a story to touch you without trying to impress you with flavor-of-the-month stars and no "serious" documentary all ready to go for air on the Bravo network, this is the film to seek out. Static is a flawless example of what an independent film is all about.

After all these years, this is the one film that I cherish most and everyone I've suggested it to has admitted it stays in their minds. Without any dialogue to sum it up, the film's final lingering shot along with Amanda Plummer's thoughtful expression says so much more about feelings than any other film ever could!

An afterthought (2017): The fact that Romanek has disowned this film, calling it a "piece of juvenalia" as his first effort, makes me want to say he's being a pompous ass. One Hour Photo, while a decent enough film, was not as affecting as Static. Plus, giving away the ending of One Hour Photo right at the BEGINNING ruins the suspense, since we already know how it will turn out. Him wanting to call that his legitimate first feature is a huge mistake -- STATIC is much more important and meaningful.
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Quirky, absorbing, effecting.
Alex Gifford25 March 2005
I saw this about 15 years ago on late night television in the UK. Having seen John Carpenters 'Christine' a few weeks before I was curious about the expanded talents of Keith Gordon, and I was not disappointed. 'Static' is one of those films that never leaves the viewer. It's stark simplicity and realism has meant that everyday life keeps giving me 'flashbacks' to this movie. Even after all these years things are still very clear in my mind. Keith Gordons brilliantly understated performance and Amanada Plummer (in what must be one of her most controlled roles ever) capture the mood of the piece perfectly as one mans obsession builds to a devastating climax. The question of "was he right or crazy?" bears relevance beyond the confines of the film as we live a world where everyone, it seems, is guided to the point of blindness by their own beliefs and obsessions. Please ignore the shots of the kids in the alien masks on the advertising for this film. That is just another example of the distributor not having a clue what the film is really about.
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A must-see for indie fans everywhere
Kastore10 July 2002
"Static" is the rarest of gems. I am glad Mark Romanek went on to make my alltime favorite music video (Nine Inch Nails' 'closer'), because had he not amazed me with that video, I probably would never have been interested in seeing "Static". When I finally did see this film, I was even more amazed at how great it truly turned out to be, and wondered why it was that I had to discover the film all by myself rather than it being directly recommended to me.

The story and directing is very captivating, as I soon found myself intently watching every second of the film to see what was going to happen next. Keith Gordon (who co-wrote the script with Romanek) was dead-on in his portrayal of Ernie Blick, an out-of-place young man in small town America with an obsession over his new 'invention'. It also took "Static" to turn me into an Amanda Plummer fan.

The movie's soundtrack alone is entertaining. No wonder Romanek went on to a career in music videos as he obviously has a wide knowledge of music. I mean, what can you say about a soundtrack that effectively includes songs from both The The and Elvis?

I can't help but believe that "Static" is one of the roots of today's massive independent film movement. All of the key elements to current popular indies can be found in "Static": limited budget, dark humor, a disturbed main character, psychologically-driven drama. The film's ending is original and surprising even by the standards of the modern 'twist-in-the-end' craze. What made me appreciate "Static" that much more is that it still didn't sit you down and spell everything out for you at the end with a narrated flashback montage (like too many movies do). Instead, it's up to you to figure all out yourself.

If you are a fan of today's popular independent films - especially Pi, Memento, or Donnie Darko - then please do yourself a favor and take a timewarp back to '85 to find out where these films originated from. See "Static".
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Haunting, odd, weird but comforting
candcransom27 December 2005
I saw this film over 10 years ago, a few months before my father died. It was on late-night TV and I was fascinated by it - it remained in my mind, though at the time I didn't know how significant it would become. The general story dealt with a young man's "glimpse" of heaven through the static on his TV screen. A few months later, on the day of my father's funeral, I was sitting in my car with my son and my car radio appeared to "start up" without prompting; all I could get on the radio was "static noise". (This is all true.) I took this as a message from my father as the film had been so haunting in my mind. It wasn't frightening, but very comforting. The radio continued in this way on and off for a number of weeks until the car was scrapped. I extracted the radio itself and still have it now. I would love to see the film again and have tried on ebay without success. I can't remember much about the acting or direction, but surely the point of a good film is if it lingers in your mind? I haven't seen many films since then that have had this effect.
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A truly fantastic film.
andy_blackmore29 June 2003
If you ever get the chance to watch this one take it. Mind you not sure how thats going to happen as for some insane reason it's not out on either VHS or DVD. So come on Mark , time to re-release this classic, I was lucky to see it at film school in the 1980's and unlike some things that's not where it should stay.
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weird unknown gem
loig718 October 2001
"Static" is a precious film. It's a well kept secret, the kind of far-out gem (like , say, Talk Talk : "Spirit Of Eden") that will always escape classification. In a word, it's weird.

Visually, it belongs to the white walls, new wave, ambient American minimalist wave of "Sex, Lies, And Videos", "Bodies, Rest And Motion", "Parents", or the cult Hal Hartley films. The cherry on the cake has to be its soundtrack, complete with sublime atmospheric synthethizer waves by Japan.

The story : something magical happened in a small community ...except noone "gets" it, and a fairly disturbed young man can't get to communicate his sublime vision, and share his surreal "invention". What he has come up with is mind boggling... and noone else recognizes it. Past the suspenseful first half, the film veers into another, more tragic, direction ("Sugarland Express" ?), as he takes on the world. Weird, wacky, wonderful.

Details (like the half-melt crucifix collection, the survivalist, his kids' alien masks) abound, creating a suitably subtle poetic atmosphere. Add to that the fascinating presence of Amanda Plummer, who adds a doubly poignant subplot (returning "home", and sympathising with the loner), and you have a true cult classic of the eighties. -Other possible recommendations : "The Reflecting Skin" , or "The Darkness Of Darkley Noon".
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jonbandit4 January 2007
Static is a gem of a film. As moving and dramatic in its finale as any film whilst concerning itself with small town bible land USA. Its pace is slow and its mood is quiet except for 15 minutes in which the main character seeks his Warhol moment. Excellent direction and use of little known cast. White Noise has never been more intriguing. I caught this film on late night television and then sought out the video which I was pleased to get my hands on. If you like Coen brothers work like Fargo and Raising Arizona I reckon you would appreciate Static. Ernie Flick played brilliantly by Keith Gordon (whatever happened to him?) is a character to empathise with and for whom the escape that we all probably desire was his only survival tool.
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Weird for weird's sake.....
merklekranz17 October 2008
Basically a very simple story is stretched to the extreme. No one believes they can see heaven on a modified television, except the inventor and believer. The characters are quirky, and fairly well developed, but they really have very little to do except revolve around Keith Gordon and his preposterous invention. Bob Gunton and his family of survivalists are way up there on the strange scale and almost seem like they belong in a different movie. The ending is especially weak, and is both unsatisfying and totally unbelievable. Nevertheless, "Static" gets points for originality, even though the presentation is not fully developed. - MERK
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Well done, Mr. Gordon! (spoilers)
Pepper Anne30 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Finally! Keith Gordon picked a role where he doesn't come off as ultra-creepy or arrogant (see 'Christine' and 'Combat Academy'). This low key role was perfect for Gordon (but I still think he's a much better director than actor).

In Static, Keith Gordon is Ernie, a young orphaned when his parents were killed in a car accident. He is the famed inventor of this strange town (which includes a pseudo-believer/ex-Green Beret evangelist cousin). After two years of working on a highly secretive project, Ernie is ready to unveil to the town (and to the rest of the world) what he believes will change their lives forever, a television that gives real-time images from Heaven.

Everyone thinks Ernie is definitely ready for the madhouse (though I don't know how such a strange town could think he is somehow so strange that it stands out), and Ernie is confused by their reaction. Those who were invited to witness the demonstration of the project claimed they couldn't see anything, but Ernie was convinced there was something there. Ernie's friend, Julia (Amanda Plummer), who drifts into town at the right time (Ernie revealing his project), makes a great point: what is the point of the invention if people believe that Heaven exists anyway?

Static is what an indie movie should be. It's not too pretentious like your modern indie fare and gives us a generally bizarre comedy in the style of Bagdhad Cafe or Rosalie Goes Shopping or even Repo Man (and the eerie combination of Johnny Cash and obscure 80s new wave makes it even more of a sister to these movies). Movies where the events are just so strange, but since the characters are all so weird as well, their reality appears to them, a normal existence. And, best of all, the filmmakers stayed true to their intentions and didn't try to make everyone feel so gushy with the typical Hollywood Happy Ending.

If you really love bizarre 80s movies (though, the story is not so coherent to be considered too bizarre, or too avante garde), then you won't go wrong with Static.
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Worth the tough find.
Haphazardben1 June 2002
Static is a well shot, fantastic story. Not a standard hollywood picture that deserves all of what little recognition it has. If you live in Chicago, you can rent it at Facets video rental. (They have some great rare movies) Mark Romanik has such a great visual eye. I anxiously await One Hour Photo.
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an overlooked film that's worth finding
Boone-49 June 1999
Static is an ideal film for all fans of American independent cinema. The film is quirky, funny, moving, very human, is about the frustrations of life, how our idea of life is shaped by our ideas of death, its about how we get through it. The film has some fantastic dialogue, memorable scenes and details, a very zeitgeist soundtrack, and Amanda Plummer. Admittedly it is a little overlong in places, but never without reason. The film seems, certainly in the UK, almost impossible to get hold of. I managed to buy a copy through an online video company, after having seen it a couple of times on Channel 4. The film is very very important to me, and thankfully a stark contrast to "My Chauffeur" which features in the trailers on my copy. If you get the chance to, see it. It's obscure, but it's everything cinema should be.
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A mentally ill disillusioned young man suffers a mental break after he is orphaned by his parents dying in an auto accident.
blaine-5589224 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The acting is great. The cast accurately depict people in a small town and remind me of various people in my small town upbringing. Even the young man is realistic as a mentally ill 20 something year old. I would say if you are curious what a delusional young person that experiences a psychiatric break from reality experiences then watch this sad truth. It is very accurate. He is convinced he invented a machine to see heaven. When he reveals it to close friends and they see static on a screen instead of heaven, he suffers another break. He takes hostages on a bus that are elderly and want to believe him. In the end a stand off with police in his small town leafs to the bus being shot at and bursting in flames killing everyone on board. I have met and worked with people in the mental wards that experience very similar breaks. Although with different delusions than his. The media likes to show films and news like this showing people hurting others. In reality this is an inaccurate depiction of what tends to happen. Usually they are hospitalized and abandoned by families eventually who can not understand.
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Static (1985)
SnakesOnAnAfricanPlain26 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Static is a remarkable, but unheard of movie. It remains in the dungeons of obscurity due to no DVD release. It's a real shame that unique films like this don't get around more often. Gordon starts the film as a keyboardist. He soon walks away from his band and we later see him on the assembly line for crucifixes. This is a bizarre, yet interesting job. One that many would have never thought of. With so many crucifixes out there, somebody must assemble them, and the job itself tells a lot about our protagonist. He is part of religion on an assembly line. Every day he attaches Jesus to the cross hundreds of times. Gordon also decides to keep the deformed factory defects. On his wall are many different Jesus'. These could be commenting on the mutilating of religion itself, or how Gordon finds beauty in all of God's creations. Even those that go against the norm. Gordon is also working on an invention which he keeps a secret from the town. The film plays it very straight, and is constantly burrowing its way through your mind. It's a truly intelligent and sensational film, with a thoughtful and well constructed script. The performances are spot on, with Gunton as the eccentric cousin, really standing out. If you are bored with the predictability of films that are simply extensions of their trailers, hunt down this film.
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An amazing film with stellar performances
hallett1 September 2000
Static transcends the usually flat, cliched medium of film to create a deeply moving portrait of an American family. A truly dynamic work, the movie affected me in ways I never thought an artform could. In short, Static is nothing of the sort. This is in large part due to the work of Mike Murakami. Actors of any age rarely display half the level of emotion he musters in one glance. I have awaited his follow-up performance eagerly, but after 15 years, I fear it may never come.
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A jewel
domberga20 August 2017
This film has changed my life; and the older I become, the more meanings I find in it. Such a shame it was never released in France and apparently, the only DVD that exists is just the VHS transferred to that support without any improvement. So I've decided to start a # to get it done properly...
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Romanek in the 80's - an obscure and nifty find
MisterWhiplash8 November 2014
Static is a most intriguing and heartfelt quirky dramedy, the kind that is almost like, I dunno, maybe an odd 80's new-wave cross between Herzog (the dreams and ambitions of someone who may be insane, or just lost) with the idiosyncrasies of a Wes Anderson or something. But really it's still all Romanek - see his 2nd film, which I now mistakenly thought was his first, One Hour Photo, for another display of a story of a man who is really screwed up, but we know why and it makes it all the more painfully awkward and awful. In this case Keith Gordon isn't quite the actor that Robin Williams was there, but he fits for such a character who is genuinely likable and can get someone to believe him - until they see his invention, with their own eyes.

What makes his story so heartbreaking, and this is taking aside the climax (or the resolution of it) which takes a turn into a WTF moment that I'm still not sure how to process as good or bad for the film, is that this character has genuine talent, after all he spent two years making a specialized antenna with a TV set. But it's all due to trauma that no one around him - certainly not bug-f*ck crazy cousin Bob Gunton (Warden Norton from Shawshank Redemption, a fantastically nutty performance if one-note), or even his very understanding and warm girlfriend Julie (who has an odd moment at the very start of the film where she quits a new-wave band for... what reason, I guess to go back to Ernie, but it seems so sudden as to not really be necessary, despite being well-shot and musically interesting).

It's at its most compelling as a study of this guy who has never fully processed his loss... or maybe he has, and is using this invention as a way of finding his way of getting back. Or, with this invention that projects on TV heaven, it's the Herzogian line: these are not just my dreams, they are yours as well. Is heaven a place on Earth, or just a bunch of white noise? It's an odd little marvel, imperfect but charming because of them (like that whole sequence on the bus, which is so absurd it's hard not to laugh, even if it's difficult to not see the old ladies as anything but genteel types, why not one old lady on the bus who is like 'oh gimme a break'?) If you want to find something truly obscure but sweetly deranged with a backbeat of Elvis and Brian Eno, look no further - as if most of us are looking for those things anyway. That it should have received a DVD release already is a major understatement, if only due to the at least known quantity of Keith Gordon and Amanda Plummer, or Romanek, who (somewhat) sadly remains the more under-appreciated filmmakers from the music-video pack that came from the 90's (i.e. Fincher, Jonze, Gondry, etc).
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An atmospheric film about late-teen confusion
lowthers27 January 2007
I really like this film. I saw it about 20 years ago and it stayed in my mind forever. It's slow and thoughtful, and has many funny moments, like when the (brother/uncle) displayed his family's anti-nuclear equipment. As I recall, the soundtrack was by Japan - an English band of the early-mid eighties. Very sophisticated and cool at the time. I saw them, live in Newcastle, having been one of many fans back then. I think the main title track was called "the experience of swimming", an instrumental B-side of a single called "gentlemen take Polaroids". Anyway, thats the history lesson. If anyone knows how I can get a copy of the film, please let me know. Regards (...not a member of Japan!)
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Should a movie's title necessarily be used as a spoiler?
Fedor Petrovic (fedor8)1 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A relatively interesting movie until it implodes at the exact same time when the bus explodes.

An inventor (Gordon) loses his parents in a car-crash, and then spends the next two years working on a device that would show direct images from Heaven. Realizing that he is the only one who can see images of Heaven on the screen (while others see only static), he flips his lid and decides to "hijack" a bus, with its elderly passengers being willing participants in the sham. The bus explodes after a cop shoots at it (duh), killing the inventor and everyone else in it. His girlfriend, the beautiful and stunning and sexy Amanda Plummer, under shock, goes to his flat to take a look at his invention one final time; but again she sees nothing on the screen. However, the last scene shows her leaving the town, with a wide grin on her face. Did she see Gordon i.e. Heaven on the screen, after all?

Or did she simply lose her mind, too? Or was she smiling because she had thought of a very funny joke, perhaps? Or maybe she couldn't believe her "luck" for having a movie career? Nothing would surprise me; she does play a very ditsy character, after all. In fact, Plummer is much like that other nepotistic semi-amateur, Melanie Griffith, in the sense that both are totally limited to playing dim-witted, goofy-voiced women with three brain-cells. And even that they can't do particularly well.

So was Gordon out of his gourd or did he actually see something on his device which for some reason others couldn't? To me, that isn't the most pressing question here. The real dilemma here concerns whether the writer/director has all his marbles or not: why the Hell would anyone cast Amanda Plummer as anyone's love-interest??? She is one of the most extreme examples of Hollywood nepotism gone wild, along with others such as Anjelica Huston, Laura Dern and others.

I thought it was daft from the director to get Gordon to tell Plummer that she is "the total opposite of crazy". That was intended as a compliment, not only from Gordon by the director as well (i.e. it was intended sans the irony), but what it implies instead is that she is utterly boring and common. Duh.

"Static" is a fairly original movie with solid dialogues and an unusual story-line. The basic premise had (or still has) great potential. Where it all comes tumbling down, however, is the ending with the bus exploding. With Gordon buying a bus-ticket "Static" enters "goofy-comedy" territory, and yet just as it does that, it suddenly gives us this totally bizarre, out-of-the-blue, absurd tragic event which in no way, shape, or form fits into this movie. It is quite obvious that the director had written himself into a dead end, a blind alley, a corner, clueless as to how to wrap up the proceedings. So like any amateur writer desperate to finally complete his script, he tacked on a totally preposterous, over-the-top, idiotic explosion. "Hey, an explosion kills nearly everyone, so my movie can end, right?" Yes, that is correct, Sunshine, the explosion does solve your problem, but it also RUINS your movie.

Besides, it made zero sense for any of the cops to shoot at the bus as it started moving without getting the all-clear from the sheriff, and without even having a pressing reason to do so. (Or have you perhaps ever heard of an American hijack situation involving dozens of hostages, in which the cops have the go-ahead to blindly shoot at the vehicle in question as soon as it starts moving? I haven't). Not to mention the moronic ease with which the bus explodes, as if it had been DRENCHED with highly inflammable liquids from all sides, as if it had been meticulously and intentionally prepared by the company that runs these buses to explode like a bad guy from a "Die Hard" movie.

What is it with movies and their bombastically exploding vehicles? If cars and buses really exploded as easy as they do in movies, there would be millions dead in road accidents throughout the world every month. Given that "Static" is an indie movie – the type of films that are supposed to relieve us from all the usual Hollywood cliché bull – it is doubly shameful that the writer/director resorted to such a cheap plot-device. (And he could have saved some money in that shoe-string budget of his by not having to shoot an explosion.)

Perhaps if someone neutral had proof-read the script before pre-production started, then the cretinous ending would have been re-written and we would have had a good film on our hands. As it is, "Static" is just another great premise that peters out due to a lack of imagination on the writer's part.

Gordon invites his friends and their KIDS to the grand presentation of his invention. Why anyone with more than half a brain-cell would actually risk having 3 young kids endanger his presentation – or the device itself – is beyond me. That was a stupid touch. In the end, the kids and their monster masks end up on the movie's poster. Why?

The director, Romanek, seems to be over-idealized and worshiped by many "art-crowd" film-goers apparently for the simply reason that "Static" came out early, before indie films reached their qualitative peak in the 90s, gradually being mass-produced, eventually dropping in quality, becoming just as hopeless as the Hollywood films they allegedly wanted to stray from. I think these people tend to (sub)consciously ignore the movie's obvious flaws, and to greatly exaggerate its positive sides. Romanek cast Keira Knightly in his latest movie, and had spend decades working on trashy MTV videos for the likes of Madonna and Michael Jackson. Not exactly the resume of a brilliant film-maker.
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Quirky 80s Nonesese
a_chinn9 May 2017
This film reminded me of a number of quirky independent films of the 80s, like "Earth Girls are Easy," "Bagdad Cafe," or "Six String Samurai," though unfortunately this one was nowhere as good. The film boasts a strong director in Mark Romanek, who disowned the film and would later go on to make "One Hour Photo" and the brilliant "Never Let Me Go," and also a strong co-writer/star, Keith Gordon, who'd follow this film up with his directorial debut "The Chocolate War," then "A Midnight Clear," and the very underrated "Mother Night." Despite that pedigree, this oddballs story of Gordon inventing a machine that is supposed to allow people to see picture of heaven, although most people only see static except for Gordon. The quirky story is complimented with a quirky cast that includes Amanda Plummer and Bob Gunton, but the story seems pretentious, obvious in it's metaphor, and simply not all that entertaining. I did like the soundtrack though, which featured Elvis, to Johnny Cash, to OMD, to Brian Eno, to the film's especially good kickoff playing The The's "This is the Day." Not much to recommend here outside of some 80s nostalgia, which I'll admit was enough to hold my interest.
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Atmospheric and stunning piece of art!
Kim Alsos26 October 2014
This movie is a good example of the fact that great art is not dependent on big budgets, top actors, or blazing effects. Keith Gordon is perfect for this role, and gives, in my opinion, his best performance in this movie. I saw this gem a couple of times when it ran on the British satellite- channel 'Premiere' in the late eighties. As with many others here, it made a big impact and stayed with me. Tip: 'Greasers Palace' is a movie with very similar qualities! Great movies like these transcends the medium, and seems to be real and play out in front of you. Like one of those dreams you remember all your life. seek out these movies! They are positively up there with the best ones, albeit tucked away in a quirky niche behind the blockbusters...
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