AKA

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AKA

Director: Duncan Roy
Runtime: 118 minutes
Cast: Matthew Leitch, Peter Youngblood Hills, George Asprey

Look past the novelty of Mike Figgis' Time Code, with its skillful quadrants of one-take simultaneous action, and there's precious little there, just a glib Hollywood satire propped up by an impressive technical feat. Now that such stunts are commonplace in the digital world, perpetuated by Figgis' awful Hotel, the as-yet-undistributed U.S./Bolivian drama Sexual Dependency, and Duncan Roy's AKA, the limits of the format are much clearer: What's crap on one screen isn't going to be any better in multiplicity.

Divided into a triptych of images sprawled across a Cinemascope frame, AKA rarely uses the extra screens for information that couldn't be conveyed well enough in one. More often than not, shots that would comprise the traditional "coverage" of a scene—an establishing shot of a space and close-ups of the characters speaking and reacting—take up all three boxes, sometimes with a set-up for the next scene developing in the far right. It's hard to fathom how Roy thought the format would serve his trite examination of '70s British class politics, but the effect is more distracting than illuminating. The eye flutters haplessly in search of a stimulating image, but all three angles tell the same story.

Opening in 1978, Roy's autobiographical tale centers on 18-year-old Matthew Leitch, an inscrutable Mr. Ripley type whose dreams of social ascendancy are thwarted by an abusive blue-collar father who won't allow him to go to college. Undaunted, Leitch runs away from home and ingratiates himself to snooty aristocrat Diana Quick, a gallery owner who takes him on as her assistant. After Quick's vindictive son (Blake Ritson) casts him away in a jealous rage, a chance encounter with charismatic American Peter Youngblood Hills whisks him off to Paris, where he masquerades as Ritson and charges his expenses to a credit card. Once there, he discovers a startling revelation about Hills' relationship to rich playboy George Asprey, and gets drawn into their inner circle.

For some reason, Roy follows the police investigation into Leitch's credit fraud, but these scenes are still a welcome distraction from the cartoons that stand for the rich and the poor. On one side of the tracks, Leitch's beer-swilling working-class dad tells him the characters in his precious books "don't give a shit" about him; on the other, aristocrats with names like Lady Gryffoyn address the hoi polloi by first asking, "Do you know who I am?!" It's a wonder that no one has a custard pie handy to give these snobs their expected comeuppance. That would be worth seeing from three angles at once.