Impolex tells the story of Tyrone S., a United States soldier in Operation Paperclip, the mission to locate and retrieve German rockets and rocket science after the end of World War II. Tyrone is tasked with finding what he believes are the last V-2’s. Lost in the woods of an undefined European country, people from Tyrone’s past begin to appear in unusual ways, bearing strange tidings. A loved one he abandoned for the war is especially prominent in Tyrone’s journey, as is a fellow soldier and a mysterious man with tidings of the present and the future that are not yet known to Tyrone. Impolex is an unjustifiable blend of the bare bones realism of John Ford’s WWII documentaries and the glorious stupidity of Abbot and Costello.
As he carries his quarry through the woods, Tyrone meets, among others, a talking octopus and an apparition of the girlfriend (Kate Lyn Sheil) he left behind when he joined the Army. His conversations with them and with other friendly, hostile and quizzical figures, give “Impolex” the episodic structure of a fractured fairy tale or a Beckett play. The director, a New York University graduate whose second feature, “The Color Wheel,” provoked passion and puzzlement at several festivals, has a natural eye, an offbeat sense of rhythm and no great interest in conventional storytelling. This is both intriguing and a bit tiresome, as Tyrone stumbles and mumbles his way through a series of inscrutable encounters. But the director breaks his own spell of slack goofing around with moments of powerful emotional revelation that seems to come out of nowhere.
A sleepy tramp in a soldier’s uniform, Riley O’Bryan has the name of a character actor and the frame of a silent comedian. He speaks in a monotone mumble (the kind that passes for philosophical or comical, depending on the film) without ever quite closing or opening his mouth and always looks like he’s being yelled at. Supplied with a a manila folder full of confidential instructions and a pack full of bananas to eat, he wanders through a forest looking for unexploded rockets, which he improbably keeps losing. He’s a send-up of Pynchon’s Tyrone Slothrop – a burlesque of a burlesque. Occasionally, his girlfriend (Kate Lyn Sheil, whose succintness is the jarring foil to O’Bryan’s inarticulate good nature) from back home intervenes, and he has run-ins with an escaped bandit prone to slapping people across the head and a one-eyed sailor who feeds him further information about his mission. But mostly he stumbles, gets lost or confused, eats bananas, and falls asleep. All of this is shot with an artless (it’s cinema, not art!) directness whose lack of pretension sometimes becomes beauty, as when – in what’s either a flashback or a dream or some reality – Sheil, her face in a nine-minute long close-up, tells a half-interested O’Brien the story of her longing for him. We need more movies like this.