The American independent equivalent to Denmark's Dogme 95 label, InDigEnt (Independent Digital Entertainment) produced micro-budgeted features shot on digital video, but the results so far have been visually indifferent duds such as Final, Chelsea Walls, Tadpole, and Pieces Of April. It's one thing for DV to offer an economically viable alternative to celluloid, but these movies look so dreadful that they seem to hold the medium itself in contempt, as if photography were a form of decadence. It comes as a small relief that InDigEnt's November, a psychological thriller that took the Best Cinematography prize at Sundance 2004, makes the most of its visual limitations, bathing the images in a greenish hue that resembles the sickly glare of florescent light. Too bad other forms of gimmickry eventually take hold of the story, which begins as a promising twist on Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up and ends in a confusing triptych of variations on a scene.
While driving home from dinner one night, Courteney Cox sends her live-in boyfriend James LeGros into a street-side convenience store for a cheap dessert. During his absence, she surreptitiously places a call to a co-worker (Michael Ealy) with whom she's having an affair. Meanwhile, an armed robber shoots and kills LeGros and the two store clerks, leaving Cox wracked with guilt. In managing her grief, she starts taking sessions with a psychiatrist (Nora Dunn) and returns to teaching a photography class, but she's thrown for a loop when a slide showing the exterior of the store on the night of the shooting mysteriously appears in the carousel. From there, November spins off into a multi-pronged paranoid thriller on perception and memory that backtracks to that fateful event and presents three different sets of possibilities. Which one is the truth? Or is the real truth even knowable?
Though streamlined to a crisp 73 minutes, November still feels more like a clever student short that got out of hand than the Kafka-esque nightmare that director Greg Harrison (Groove) likely intended. The entire house of cards is constructed on repetition; it doubles back to variations on a scene that keep producing new and supposedly mind-blowing revelations. But with each successive trip back to the scene, things only become murkier and less compelling, lost in pretentious symbolism and obvious visual signposts. One newspaper clipping actually reads, "Is Modernism Dead?" Based on the evidence at hand, it's clearly on the respirator.