Justin Hennard – Moonlight by the Sea (2003)

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“A thinking man’s futuristic sci-fi flick that picks up on Orwell’s Big Brother theme.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A thinking man’s futuristic sci-fi flick that picks up on Orwell’s Big Brother theme that has the potential to become a cult fave for those who crave Midnight movies and listening to their music at full-blast. Justin Hennard is the young creative whiz behind this project, who was influenced by Kenneth Patchen’s 1941 novel “The Journal of Albion Moonlight.” It makes use of Patchen’s theme that ‘Humans are always having conversations with people who are not present.’

It’s a work of great craftmanship, especially for a low-budget film, shot in a marvelously effective glowing black and white; the David Baker landscape drawings were very effective in creating the dreamy mood of a space flight, while Anthony Locastro’s art settings are imaginative in a goofy way. The other plus is that the ensemble cast all get into this crazy story and embody their characters in a believable though bizarre way.

It’s basically a bad dream flick gone trippy (dropping a tab of acid can only enhance an already spaced-out cerebral experience). Albion Moonlight (Sean Allen) can’t be awakened by his wife and lets the dream rip. In the next scene he’s tethered by multiple umbilical-like wires connecting him to the inside cabin of a wooden spaceship, where he’s being monitored for his biorhythms and preparing to go on his next field assignment to complete a ‘big sales deal.’ We witness the capsule as it crash lands in a scorched desert and learn this top-grade salesman dude works for the Corporation, which has gotten control of the world and controls everyone’s thought process. Consumers are taught to always need more product and workers are taught “To serve is to be saved, to search is to be lost.” The mantra of indoctrination is “Serve! Obey!” The citizens pledge allegiance to the unseen but all-knowing Chairman, who holds sway over the world.

Because of the accident, Albion is no longer hooked up to the Corporation’s wiring and can’t be monitored, or for that matter saved by them. The dude hasn’t been on his own for so long that he freaks, and uses the dark side of his brain to call for help within himself. Suddenly appearing in a spiffy white pimp’s suit is an African-American (Kingsly Martin), who identifies himself as his Corporation rescuer (Hey, if someone says he’s there to help, you don’t judge him by GQ standards!). Urged on to take advantage of free thought, the dude pines for his estranged wife, recalls something about once having a mom, and tries to put bits and pieces of his life puzzle together (which makes this a film that requires many looks before you can see all that Hennard is throwing against the wall). These free thoughts come from the light side of the dude’s brain, and counteract the negative dark side. Which is the cue for Nomman (Prince Camp), the human side of Albion’s brain to start working again. Intercutting Albion’s mind trip are scenes from the high-tech Corporation Headquarters where the lovely chick Gwen Klaus (Mylinda Wenz) presides. Her role as head of sales requires her to offer conditioning exercises for the workers to follow the company line. Now thrown off her projected sales mark by Albion’s disappearance and pressured by the Corporation for answers, she enlists the aid of Captain Santop (Gary Peters). He reluctantly helps, probably taken in by her sexy charm, despite his unease with discovering she’s not exactly following the Corporation’s policy by taking illegal substances.

But that’s enough story to get the idea it’s about a futuristic fascistic world built on mind-control and propaganda (something like Bush’s agenda) and someone who has stumbled upon a chance to rebel against robotic thought. The beauty is in watching this mental chess match. It’s visceral and dense, and its shortcoming is that it doesn’t always come to life. But it’s provocative, intelligent and comes with a nice premise for a cutting edge sci-fi flick. I would say it’s a Blade Runner for the indie crowd and a sleeper film for those who can get away long enough from a Hollywood film and wonder about weird things, like trying to relate with someone else.

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