Tuesday, September 29, 2015

NYFF ’15: Chums from Across the Void

Is one of Enver Hoxha’s infamous Albanian bunkers your idea of a happy zone or a safe space? Then let Jim Finn whisk you away Calgon-style with his self-help program for Reds weary in their nonexistent souls. However, only Trotskyites need apply for Past Leftist Life Regression Therapy in Finn’s short experimental essay film Chums from Across the Void, which screens all day Friday as part of Projections Program A at the 53rd New York Film Festival.

It is time to get in touch with your past Bolshevik lives, with the help of stylized stroboscopic cinematography and suitably distressed-looking archival imagery. Perhaps you were Maria Spiridonova or “Little” Karl Radek. In any event, you came to a bad end, but that is to be expected. By now, we all know Revolution devours it children. So let the soothing Socialist visuals wash over you and try to make something of it all.

Finn digs his Commie iconography, but in past films like The Juche Idea it has been hard to determine whether this is hipster kitsch or slyly subversive irony. However, Chums rather seems to lean towards the latter, given the painful fate some of our Bolshevik spirit guides met at Stalin’s hand. The Albanian bunker motif is also a possible “tell,” considering how wasteful and absurd the “bunkerization” campaign was for the isolated Marxist state.

Arguably, you could consider Finn the filmmaker most closely akin to Guy Maddin who still maintains a distinctly idiosyncratic identity. Based on some of his other projects, it is hard to make a hard and fast conclusion regarding his politics, but in the case of Chums, it will probably be most enjoyed by unreconstructed Cold Warriors with a healthy sense of irony, which is cool. Recommended for the aesthetically adventurous with seventeen minutes to kill, Chums from Across the Voids screens this Friday (10/2) as part of the continuous Projections Program A loop, during this year’s New York Film Festival.