PROTOTYPE Screen 98 of 10 reviews

PROTOTYPE

2017

PROTOTYPE Poster
  • Past and present, projections of reality or imagination—all warp and merge in this space, where a vision of the past and imagined future are given shape and form by “impossible” machines... and seen through a perpetually prototypical media. It’s a staggering vision—not just the best film in Future//Present, but one of the most striking films of the year, by any measure. Taken as a whole, Williams’ film is no less than an arrangement, a rendering of (media) history from disaster to disaster.

  • While Williams' previous short ventures into anaglyph 3D didn’t succeed in making me a convert, his debut feature, shot in the polarized 3D process, is an accomplishment on another plane.

  • This is the kind of film you need to see more than once in order to begin to truly absorb this profound and complex work... The results are shocking and somewhat overwhelming (thus the need for a rewatch). Using vintage Philco screens to re-photograph and reprocess his own material, Williams gives the viewer a heady mix of ideas that at times might feel a little overwhelming in their transitions, yet it’s exactly the kind of film that you can still easily sit back and let wash over you.

  • Across 63 sensorial and often inscrutable minutes, an array of found and created sources are stretched, suspended, reinterpreted and remade anew, starting with reality and diverting ever further into abstraction.

  • As Williams’ images descend into abstractions induced by collapsing distances, the camera drawing so near as to render previously seen images as graphic plays of light and dark, the tension in all three of these levels between the rational and irrational surfaces as the film’s theme.

  • It seems to exist in multiple temporal spheres at once. Midway through, a stunning interlude in which the disembodied vocals of Marilyn Monroe float atop the sound and fury of a slowly undulating, digitally modulated seascape uncannily echoes a similar sequence in the epochal eighth episode of Twin Peaks: The Return. By returning to the past through the technology of the present, PROTOTYPE unassumingly crosses the line from forward-thinking to downright clairvoyant.

  • Watching Prototype is akin to swimming through some sort of mysterious visual archive, the ripples caused by one's movements growing bigger and bigger until its holdings start disintegrating, which isn't to say one doesn't eventually reach the other side. Regardless of what concrete meaning can be attached to this paradoxically soothing swim, there was no better way to wash off the heat and float away to cinema's outer limits.

  • Stereoscopic images of the storm’s aftermath is but one inspiration for Blake Williams’ 3D feature debut Prototype, an audacious multi-part work of personal historiography that, like Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, is made partly of true esoterica and partly invents an alternate past of retro-futurist technology and dreamed digressions. The tour de force re-imagining of the storm... is but one chapter of this overwhelming and startlingly unusual historical re-invention.

  • As Prototype progresses, Williams takes us farther and farther away from concrete representation. Late in the film, we see a set of flattened, stuttering images that close attention reveals to be footage of a rodeo. Williams has smanipulated the images to resemble Étienne-Louis Marey chronophotography, or Italian Futurist depictions of "sculptural time." This passage eventually gives way to pure light: geometrical forms that pulse and pump their way from the screen in a kind of Suprematist bop.

  • It’s pretty continuously stunning, minus whatever push/pull I felt as a viewer, and the outstandingly layered soundtrack performs a slow upwards and downwards rumble to provide a sort of emotional/narrative spine.

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