Sunday, May 18, 2014

SIFF ’14: The Voice Thief (short)

You could say it is another manifestation of the Malickian Phenomenon. After decades without a new film, Alejandro Jodorowsky has entered a period of unexpected productivity. With Jodorowsky’s Dune, Frank Pavich’s documentary examination of his ill-fated attempt to adapt the science fiction classic, still fresh in theaters, Jodorwosky’s long awaited chronicle of his formative years is finally due to open in New York this coming Friday. Yet, the most Jodorowskian film of all might be his son Adan’s new short film, based on a story by the old man himself. Expect impassioned strangeness when Jodorowsky’s The Voice Thief (trailer here) screens at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival.

It is hard to be married to a diva, but Noev is utterly devoted to Naya. Unfortunately, she is no Maria Callas. When a particularly nasty review sparks a spat the long submissive Noev finally snaps. His brief choke hold will have dire consequences: the loss of her voice. Desperate to make amends, he heads off into the night with his trusty bell jar to steal her a new one. He picks some odd targets though. This will become rather vexing when Naya takes on the traits of her purloined voices’ original owners.

So if you are looking for a film in which a transvestite midget prostitute plays an important role, the Jodorowsky family is here to serve. It is indeed a family affair, with brother Cristobal (a.k.a. Axel) appearing as Noev. Although Adan has previously been better known as a musician, as a filmmaker, he is clearly a chip off the trippy block. With its lush and bizarre sets and costumes, as well as the deliberately discomfiting aria, Thief often resembles the Third Element’s freaky cousin.

For some reason, Thief is often classified under the experimental rubric, but it follows a pretty well defined narrative path—whereas visually, it is totally out there. The attention dedicated to human weakness and perversity gets a bit tiresome even during its twenty-six minute running time (but just wait for The Dance of Reality). Still, Thief also boasts Asia Argento as Naya, so every cult film aficionado should have some familiarity with it. After all, it is destined to be revived for every Jodorowosky retrospective, because he just does not have that many films to program and one of them is Tusk.

Technically, Thief is a heck of a short. Cinematographer Alexis Zabe makes the rich colors look truly decadent, bordering on the outright lurid. Costume designer Aymeric Bergada du Cadet and art director Julien Richard also contribute some madly inspired work. The dark vibe is not a problem, but it just feels a bit soulsick once it gets where it is going. Regardless, it is the sort of surreal, defiantly phantasmic outing Jodorowsky loyalists will appreciate. Recommended for the fanbase and those who appreciate cinema’s design artisans, The Voice Thief screens next Sunday (5/25) as part of the WTF! 2014 short film block at this year’s SIFF.