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Old 10th May 2007, 22:15   #1
Noumenon
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Default Primer

PRIMER

Four go-getting young engineers spend their weekends building whatever they currently hope will be the next big thing and make all their careers, but with little success. Two of them stumble onto an odd side-effect of their most recent attempt, narrowing their focus onto something with amazing potential - perhaps too much to be merely sold on. They seem to have built a time-machine, albeit one too small to climb into yourself. The principle is sound and simple however and the materials to scale up available.

The end result is a metal storage crate that, if misused carefully and correctly, will send its human contents backward through time, there to risk all the possible paradoxical dangers inherent in such activity. The less fantastic effects are more immediately dangerous however, as the challenges of avoiding a causality malfunction (such as impregnating one's own gran*) heap increasing pressure, tension and paranoia onto the shoulders of the two protagonists, relentlessly eroding their judgement and increasing their chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

-

Primer won Shane Carruth two prizes at the Sundance Festival in 2004, but he doesn't have anything on his IMCv except this perilously opaque, painfully inaccessible micro-budget Sci-Fi effort. My intuition is that I'll probably appreciate it, eventually, but having finished it about an hour ago I currently have no idea what the hell to make of it. Here are a couple of quotes from IMDb reviews at handy extremes.

Beautifully Flawed - "[D]espite all appearances, this does not amount to a bad movie. It just makes Primer a exquisitely different movie, and furthermore, a movie that works."

Confused, pointless & boring - "What a stinker. Avoid this messed up confused, poor excuse for a film. I am sickened."

Sickened, eh? I love hysterical amateurs. If you decide to give Primer a try you may want to seek out the narrative-clarifying review entitled Confusing but it makes perfect sense afterwards - "Now all you have to do is watch it another 3 times to confirm what I just wrote." What it reveals is (to me) an admirably well thought out structure that takes full advantage of time travel's dramatic oportunities, though the narrative hanging from this structure might be needlessly obscured.

Part of my interest comes from a script I am planning which falls somewhere between this and Donnie Darko. Primer is concept-based Sci-Fi but there is a lot of multi-layered, often interrupted dialogue just to really make it tricky to comprehend; my version will hopefully be more action-packed, hopefully more appealing to the average cinema-goer, and hopefully one day finished (it is currently called Gren's Orchid, in case anyone is interested).

* This doesn't happen. There are no grans in this film.
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Old 11th May 2007, 10:42   #2
Daveybot
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Default Re: Primer

Loved it loved it loved it.

And no, I didn't get it at all. Not even remotely. I held on for as long as I could, but by the time we got onto the third or fourth parallel story arc my brain melted and ran out of my ears. I don't care - I've never been so blissfully confused while watching a film before. The first time I've seen anyone attempt to properly address the really ridiculous levels of fiddliness that even a tiny time-travelling expedition would create.

And yes, the issue of dialogue is a good one - you can tell there's science in there, but it's mostly mumbled, people cutting off eachother's sentences, and so on. It shows these guys as being clever without us having to actually follow it all.

And wasn't it impressive work on such a small budget? As Clerks did with the Quick-e-mart store, these guys did with the storage depot, and it never once looked cheap. I also loved the whole atmosphere and pace of the thing - so incredibly suburban.

I've only seen it twice - the second time with a printed diagram to help me sort out what's going on, and I can promise y'all - it didn't help one bit. I'm still hopelessly at a loss to explain what happens in this garbled mess of a timeline, but for that I love it. It's the same joy as finding yourself lost in a strange new city with no idea which way you're even facing.


...but I can't actually recommend this level of confusion for anyone.
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Old 4th Jun 2007, 15:26   #3
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Default Re: Primer

...another re-rating from me.

Viewing experience during film:
Overall contribution to the canon of cinema: +

I expect not many films stack up like this: I think they're actually better than the enjoyment of watching them would merit alone.
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Old 18th Aug 2007, 15:32   #4
Noumenon
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Default Re: Primer

I watched this again last week and I'm increasingly impressed. I think DB's ratings are pretty dead on - the watching of Primer remains tough, but there are real brains at work and the achievement is (to me) quite inspiring. 1/2
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