Wednesday, October 24, 2018

NewFest Review: 1985

At a certain point the things you haven't spoken out loud begin to harden. Not so much crystallize, as that implies a multi-colored refraction in the light, and this is a much darker thing - a shell, hard, a rind. Rooms connected by hallways become compartments unto themselves - family houses no longer simply vacuumed but vacuum-sealed. Dust mites not dancing in the blackness.

Yen Tan's 1985 gets at that sense of airlessness self-imposed by all involved right off the bat with its gorgeous grainy black-and-white sheen - the feeling of sparse quiet, the unspeakable made manifest,  spreads from there. In the very first shot Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) exhumes himself up out of a murk - he folds through the dimensional portal of the San Antonio airport and steps onto home soil, becoming that old hard unfamiliar self again. It's like waking from a dream, not sure which side of the dream you're on. 

Going home for those first few years feels like that, especially when you're being forced to slide on somebody else - a sleeve of skin you no longer recognize, something to suffocate under for the smile-faced spectacle of your old friends and relatives. I remember the sensation from my own first couple of closeted years during college - family holidays over the break, questions hanging in the air like missiles on little parachutes; whosoever shall ask "are you seeing anybody" first goes bang.

It feels like everybody holding their breath. 1985 works its way towards a couple of lung-rattling sighs, a couple of well-earned sobs, but it doesn't push it - it speaks with a soft clear sad voice, hope despite hopelessness, switching the news-radio off and listening to the planes come and go, come and go. Both here and after there. It's honest to its time and situation, respectful to the ghosts it stirs, but blessedly sure of a future, of a time ahead, too. There are other passages. There are other dreams.


1985 opens this year's edition of NewFest tonight - check out the whole line-up right here and stay tuned for more reviews to come!

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