Box Head Revolution

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Box Head Revolution

Mark Christensen has been a dancer, a pilot, a skateboarder, and a musician. According to his bio, he turned to filmmaking because he felt "it would be easier to communicate his ideas through film rather than struggling with a song." That's a dubious reason to pick up a camera, but not an unusual one. The desire to establish a foothold in show business often leads ambitious dilettantes to seek out the smoothest, clearest path, as if it doesn't matter what an artist does to get heard, so long as someone cocks an ear. Fortunately, Christensen's debut film, Box Head Revolution, demonstrates that his ingenuity isn't limited to self-promotion. For starters, he modified the shot-on-video look of his lighthearted, allegorical science-fiction film with a variety of visual filters, creating an atmosphere inspired equally by '50s B-movies and early avant-garde cinema. Adom Cooper and Jenny Kim star as young lovers on a distant, Earth-like planet, where the citizenry is forced to wear masks and follow a rigid set of rules, lest they be punished by having their heads locked in a box. Both the masks and the boxes provide Christensen with a clever way to disguise his post-synchronized sound, which he's designed with the kind of elementary sense of space and distance that often gets lost on an overdubbed low-budget film soundtrack. The director's visual sense doesn't measure up as well: In spite of an amusing found-object set design reminiscent of Guy Maddin, and a few unusual camera angles, the story of Cooper and Kim's romantic fight against state oppression could just as well have been told in a radio drama—except that no one gets famous making radio dramas. Still, Christensen creates a little world out of his masks, junkyard props, and purposefully obscured videography, and he gets even more mileage out of his dialogue, which consists of weird, synonymous versions of common English speech: "Lend me your acoustical orifice," "the new orb order," "my psyche was altered by your long absence," and so on. It's a little gimmicky, but also pretty consistently amusing. The major stumbling block with Box Head Revolution is that when the characters stop talking and the often heavily abstract action begins, the movie becomes almost unwatchable. The story is never hard to follow—it has to do with the heroes finding NASA's Voyager space probe and their struggle to bring its message of liberation to the people—but the excessive amount of pointless, poorly staged digression makes it obvious that Box Head Revolution would have played best as a short, not a feature. But, of course, no one gets famous making short films, either.