Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Moonchild (1974)

One of a handful of ’70s features that began as film-school thesis projects, writer-director Alan Gadney’s Moonchild is ambitious to a fault. Not only did Gadney secure impressive locations and the participation of Hollywood actors, but he also attempted to tell an intricately allegorical story about existential and metaphysical subjects. Had Gadney been able to pull this one off, it would have been such a miraculous achievement that we’d still be talking about his audacity today, because Moonchild would have launched a singular filmmaking career. Alas, Gadney botched things so badly that Moonchild was his last directorial endeavor as well as his first. The murky storyline goes something like this: A young artist (Mark Travis) realizes that he’s been reincarnated in some otherworldly realm, where supernatural figures including the Maitre’D (Victor Buono) battle for control of his soul while an impartial observer called Mr. Walker (John Carradine) both comments upon and observes the momentous events. At first, the scenario unfolds like the setup for a horror movie, with the leading character trapped inside a weird playground for godlike lunatics. Later, once Gadney indulges himself with religious imagery, the story veers into a kangaroo-court situation with spiritual implications. (“If death is a dream," Buono coos, "then what is life? Is life God or Man?”) Some of what happens in Moonchild is borderline interesting, but the movie’s style is insufferable, particularly the hyperactive editing. Worse, the blurring of hallucinations and reality creates long stretches of incoherence. Eventually, it’s all way too much, so the viewer’s inevitable reaction is best summarized by an exclamation the protagonist makes somewhere around the 33-minute mark: “What is this? What are you people talking about?” Exactly.

Moonchild: LAME

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