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Review by Randy Shulman
Rating: (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Sunday, 10/19/2008, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at 6th & I Synagogue
IT’S A SUBTLE distinction, but in the language of cinema, there is a difference between a film, a movie and a motion picture. The latter is the highest distinction, an elevation to true artform.
The Lost Cost is, without question, a motion picture. And its extremely gifted writer-director, Gabriel Fleming, is a filmmaker to keep an eye on.
The intimate, transfixing drama is set during Halloween in San Francisco’s Castro District, as three former high school friends — Mark, Lily and Jasper — convene for a night of revelry. The actual exploits of the evening prove to be a downer — if not a little surreal — as the group, joined by an annoying fourth cog, Caleb, try to score ecstasy from an elusive dealer. But the evening’s encroaching sourness only serves to underscore a past fraught with sexual tension — which came to fruition years ago during a camping trip to California’s Lost Coast.
At the time, Mark and Lily were dating, but on that trip, a connection was struck between Mark and Jasper that has informed their friendship every since. And while it’s not hard to guess where The Lost Coast is headed, it goes there in such a cinematically astute way, that it knocks the wind out of you. You feel every bit of this motion picture — partly because it’s likely that at some point you’ve lived at least a portion of it, and partly because Fleming is a master at generating potent emotional textures.
The Lost Coast‘s indie vibe is pervasive throughout — and the starkness and sparseness of the characterizations are contrasted by Fleming’s expert editing and sumptuous cinematography. The Lost Coast combines a lyrical, almost transcendental atmosphere with one of harsh, brutal reality. The emotional density it inevitably achieves is startling.
Ian Scott McGregor’s Jasper perfectly captures the soul of a man unable to cope with his true feelings, while Lindsay Benner’s Lily is a haunting, almost ghostly presence. Cast off to the side, Lily’s a woman who tolerates the sexually-charged horseplay between the boys because she can’t fathom what else to do with her remaining yearnings for Mark and her disdain for Jasper.
As for Mark, he’s the key that unlocks The Lost Coast‘s emotional torrent. As portrayed by Lucas Alifano, Mark seems at first nothing more than another emotionally stunted, shallow twentysomething. Over the course of 75 minutes, the character evolves remarkably, into a deeply affecting, tragic young man, one impacted by remorse, longing and loneliness. It’s a spectacular performance by Alifano, one that is as careful and deliberate as it is seemingly carefree and effortless.
When you add in Lost Coast‘s desolate, beautiful imagery and Fleming’s coy, clever use of flashback as a fill-in-the-blanks device, you wind up with a motion picture that is much, much more than the sum of its parts. You wind up with an instant classic. You wind up with a masterpiece for all time.