Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jungian Sci-Fi: Yesterday was a Lie

How do you prefer your hardboiled science fiction, Jungian or Freudian? As it turns out, the concepts of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung prove surprisingly conducive to post-modern science fiction in writer-director-editor James Kerwin’s genre-bending indie Yesterday was a Lie (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles.

Hoyle might look like a private detective and she certainly drinks like one. She appears to be working on a case involving John Dudas, a supposedly mentally disturbed scientist. Hoyle’s investigation takes her to a smoky nightclub where she strikes up a fast friendship with the unnamed torch singer. Again, there seems to be much more to Hoyle’s relationship with both the Singer and her quarry than she initially acknowledges. As the audience quickly suspects, looks can be deceiving and the nature of reality is decidedly slippery in Yesterday.

What follows defies easy summarization and would be fraught with spoilers. Indeed, Yesterday heads into strange territory where physics and metaphysics collide. Informed by Jungian theories of anima and shadow selves, T.S. Eliot’s poetry, as well as nonlinear interpretations of time, Yesterday definitely goes for Matrix-style mind-games. To give an idea where it is coming from, Hoyle has a cat named Schrödinger.

In truth, most Matrix devotees will probably find Yesterday too moody and lacking in the requisite special effects. It is actually a rather talky film, but in the right way, bantering about some pretty heavy notions. Those who enjoy the stylish Film Noir look will also find Jason Cochard’s dramatic black-and-white cinematography sufficiently entertaining in its own right. Kristopher Carter’s effective jazz-influenced score further reinforces that smoky Noir atmosphere with its cool late night sounds.

Fans who have misspent a lot of time in science fiction conventions will probably geek out when they take a gander at Yesterday’s cast. For obvious reasons, producer Chase Masterson became a Trekker favorite as Leeta on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She is also an appealing jazz vocalist who demonstrates a pleasingly sultry delivery of romantic standards (like Ray Noble’s “The Very Thought of You”) as “the Singer.” Also highly significant for fanboys is the appearance of Star Wars’ Peter Mayhew, utterly unrecognizable outside of his Chewbacca makeup, as “the Dead Man.”

In addition to nice vocal chops, Masterson has an engaging screen presence that dominates the picture. While Kipleigh Brown is admirably earnest as the protagonist Hoyle, she cannot match Masterson’s star wattage. Still, the colorful supporting cast is also great fun to hear and watch chewing on Kerwin’s meaty dialogue, particularly Warren Davis (creator of the Q*bert arcade game) as Hoyle’s Jungian analyst.

It is quite impressive to see how much Kerwin was able to throw into Yesterday’s relatively brief hour and a half running time. Beautifully produced, it all looks and sounds great. The abundance of ambiguity might be understandably frustrating to some, but overall, Yesterday is easily one of the more rewarding indie genre films, which deserves more attention (and a New York engagement). It opens tomorrow (12/11) at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood.