Friday, January 15, 2016

Philip K. Dick ’16: Counter Clockwise

There is a long and reasonably successful tradition of self-experimentation in medical research, but not so much when it comes to the development of teleportation. Have you seen Jeff Goldblum in The Fly? Apparently, Ethan Walker has not. Despite knowing his prospective system is still a little buggie, Walker jumps on a node anyway and beams himself into a future where he is wanted for the murder of his wife and sister. Things will get even more complicated when Walker returns to the past he skipped over in George Moïse’s Counter Clockwise (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Philip K. Dick Film Festival in New York.

Schlubby Walker and his decidedly not schlubby partner Ceil left Rakubian Industries to invent their teleportation device. Unfortunately, their guinea pig, a rather trusting one-eyed dog does not re-materialize as they hoped. This is obviously very depressing, especially for Charlie the pooch. However, when Fido finally reappears, the relieved Walker decides to take it for test drive himself. Right, that is just a really tough decision to buy.

After jumping into the future, Walker figures out a few fused circuits turned the teleporter into a time machine. Recovering from the initial shock of seeing him again, Ceil explains to Walker how badly he has been framed. Being a fugitive in the present that used to be the future, Walker goes back to when everything went south. Of course, he will have to avoid himself and all his subsequent selves that might be sharing the time-frame.

Counter has a grungy, seriously DIY vibe that actually serves it quite well. Moïse also choreographs the resulting near-misses and crossed paths rather nicely. However, the stakes have been raised dramatically for time travel films. Compared to the complex traffic direction of Hugh Sullivan’s The Infinite Man and Jacob Gentry’s forthcoming Synchronicity, Counter is clearly much smaller in scope and considerably less ambitious conceptually. There is also some really disgusting business in the climax nobody will want to see.

Co-writer-co-producer Michael Kopelow is pretty solid as the Job-like Walker, but many of the supporting players simply are not professional grade. Unlike Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes or Bradley King’s Time Lapse, the Moïses and Kopelow never seem particularly keen to explore the paradoxes of time travel. Instead, they are more interested in the conventional subplots involving Rakubian Industries.

Counter Clockwise is not a bad film (aside from that really problematic bit), but it just can’t compete with its recent time-traveling cousins. For dedicated subgenre fans, it screens this Sunday (1/17) at the Cinema Village, during this year’s Philip K. Dick Film Festival.