Flamingos is the latest film from the – seemingly – tireless film-maker, writer, and paratheatrical performer Antero Alli. This time, he’s adding ‘film-noir’, to his ever expanding artistic quiver. Well, I say film-noir, but this is still very much an Antero Alli film, and with that comes much more than an easily labelled genre flick.
Like his previous two films The Invisible Forest and To Dream of Falling Upwards, the viewer is forced to actually think about what he is watching, so, if you’re expecting a straight forward three-act structure, I recommend you go and watch The Avengers, it’s got the Hulk in it. Flamingos doesn’t have the hulk in it, but it does have a generous helping of mystically-inclined intrigue, some lovely cinematography, and a really good soundtrack.
The central narrative of the story revolves around a bank robber named Ray, who hypnotises bank tellers into handing cash over to him, rather than pointing a gun. Ray, who has recently pulled off a big job, is holed up in a motel room with his girlfriend Zoe. The couple begin to clash over what they should do with their new found wealth, and thus tension ensues. Meanwhile, Ray’s ex-wife, and Zoe’s sister, Beatrice – a mysterious lady, with a penchant for vintage clothes, and an old way of life – has hired a lawyer to set up a divorce from Roy. The scenes are inter-cut with Bardo-esque moments, and dream sequences, in which Ray interacts with a crowd of lost souls heading down a tunnel towards a guiding light, and a rather chaotic, almost burnt looking girl who resides in a spacialy-restrictive industrialised hell-hole.
The film seems to follow Alli’s thread of the inter-relation between the dream state, and the awake state; and how one can affect, and influence the other. This time. however, the film-maker seems to be more pre-occupied with the notion of love, and it’s many incarnations, and consequences. The loss of love appears strongly in the Beatrice character, echoed through her apparent hurtful relationshop with Ray, whilst the ‘waste’ of love seems to haunt Ray himself. Zoe seems to be caught up in the innocence of love, representing a kind of childish side, in her desire to run away, and occupy herself with (to Ray) pointless new-age fancies.
The bardo scenes, at least for me, are some of the most impressive moments presented by Alli thus-far; in which he has conjured up a very ‘realistic’ depiction of the mixed-messages one receives in this state. The opening shots of the apparently lost-souls wandering down the tunnel, are both slightly haunting, and yet, for some reason, deeply familiar. As for the ‘monkey-girl’, she seems to represent chaos and passion, yet at the same time the irrational, and determined side of Ray’s psyche, and is excellently presented as the more abrasive, educating, and determined side to dreams, constantly conflicting with itself, and its influence on the dreamer.
One element of particular note in this film is the soundtrack. Alli’s wife, the very accomplished Sylvi Alli, has managed to perfectly capture the feel of the visual in her music, and in doing so, has provided a deeply satisfying musical accompaniment, that resonates perfectly with the picture. The title piece is a beautifully performed fusion of percussion, almost eastern-tinged melodies, and breathy, dreamy vocals. Sylvi then goes on to add her own take on perfectly selected ‘classics’, most notably ‘I put a spell on you’, and ‘Fly me to the moon’.
Though touted as a film-noir, Flamingoes is really a story about the dichotomy of love, and the relationship between the awake dreamer, and his muse. Allow yourself to get swept away in this audio-visual treat, and you may find yourself identifying with your own experiences of the disturbing, essential, and beautiful drama of romance.
A DVD copy of Flamingoes is available from http://www.verticalpool.com/flamingo.html