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Slow Machine Is A Slow-Burning Ordeal



Slow Machine

Slow Machine

Starring  Stephanie Hayes, Chloë Sevigny, Scott Shepherd

Directed by Joe Denardo and Paul Felton

Rating: **

I am  not going  to pretend that I understood all  of this  weird hallucinatory  film. I don’t think anyone, least  of  all the haunted protagonist  Stephanie(Hayes)  knows what the duck  is going on.

Who are  these people Stephanie keeps running into? The  film opens with a woman screaming hysterically into the phone about a crisis that we are unable to  comprehend because…well..she isn’t talking she’s rambling in  an extempore  way  that happens when the director says ‘Action’ and forgets  to say ‘Cut’.

That space between ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’ is filled in Slow Machine with a  kind of erratic angst /chaos/anarchy  that  one  faces when one suddenly tries a hallucinogenic  drug whose safety is not ensured by any medical authority. Stephanie is a  product  the paranoia industry.When we  meet her  initially she  has just come out of a bad relationship and is  hitching up with a couple  of musician friends who  are badmouthing her while she listens  in.

The film is  filled with  careless whispers and  unverifiable  incidents. There is not one  character we can trust in this  doodling  homage to dementia, certainly not  the protagonist  Stephanie who seems , if I  may use  the word  with due respects,  unhinged.Completely.Moving in directions that are at once whimsical and  aimless,  Slow Machine takes us through a cheerless labyrinth of  trance-formation and  self-abnegation. 

At one point the brilliant Chloë Sevigny(best remembered for performing  real oral sex on her real-life husband  Vincent Gallo in Brown Bunny) shows up as herself, haranguing  about an  audition  gone wrong. By this  point, I had  stopped  listening.

The camera probes into Stephanie’s  life  with  a sterile curiosity: not quite interested  enough to  really care.Therefore  the main character  or her movement through New York’s underground  culture  , never  really gets interesting  for us.

It all comes to  a boil when Stephanie meets  a police officer Gerard(Scott Shepherd)  who  takes  more than a  passing interest  in Stephanie’s past  present and …well, whatever is to come. It cannot be called be called a future. Draped in doom , trapped in its own self-validation and  encircled by  an enormous environment  of eccentricity  Slow Machine  puts Stephanie and  the cop  in a room where they spar  roughly  like two hungry animals  in a jungle looking to prey  on their adversary.

While this unlikely twosome preys  on  the  sense of paranoia that  spills over  from the  plot’s visceral but  vague arteries  the  film cares a hoot whether  we care about the protagonist or not. Will she come  out  of this selfcreated  tunnel of darkness?

At  one point  the cop sighs  loudly and  mumbles, ‘It’s time to  end this.’No truer words are heard in this  mumble-fest of existential  chaos. I sat through it  in the hope that Stephanie’s  desires  would  eventually make themselves intelligible .We know she is an actress and that she’s played by  a capable actress. Nothing more.

Oh, one  more thing. I also  stayed on till the end because I saw an Indian’s name Srihari Sathe, as one of  the producers.After all , this is  the week when we must feel patriotic.

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