Reel Affirmations 2004
Review by Randy Shulman
Rating: (5 out of 5)
Wednesday, 10/20/2004, 9:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Lincoln Theatre
Swedish with English subtitles
IN ELEVEN YEARS of reviewing films shown in this festival, I can say with some authority that I have never, ever encountered a film quite as unique and wickedly entertaining as this Swedish entry. A dazzlingly original ode to cinema, Illusive Tracks is part comedy, part noir thriller, and part post-WWII drama. Set just before Christmas in 1945, on a locomotive speeding from Stockholm to Berlin, it’s strangeness on a train.
Written and directed by Peter Dalle, Illusive Tracks doesn’t just straddle genres, it assimilates them, combining everything into one huge delirious swirl. Dalle has concocted a movie lover’s dream, and those with even a passing knowledge of cinema will find Tracks an extra-special treat. Dalle incorporates references to everything from the thrillers of Hitchcock and Clouzout to the slapstick buffooneries of Chaplin, Lloyd and Tati. There are even nods to Carpenter’s Halloween and its knock-offs Terror Train and Silent Night, Deadly Night.
I’m going to avoid plot specifics because I don’t want to spoil the movie’s abundant surprises. But the basic storyline involves a group of people whose lives collide in the most alarming and unexpected ways imaginable. The film shifts from intensely horrific to blithely (and sometimes unspeakably) funny with the flip of a switch. Dalle’s narrative spirals into increasingly insane territory, and yet the film never once loses the conviction of its own reality. It’s quite an achievement — something that, on paper, probably shouldn’t work at all, but in Dalle’s hands works brilliantly.
The dialogue is consistently wry. “The snow is beautiful,” says a traveler, gazing out the train window. “Like a whore’s arse at Christmas,” replies the acerbic old homosexual whose drama queen of a partner inevitably takes one too many “euphoria-producing” pills and winds up cavorting around his compartment like a crazed schoolgirl.
Take the plunge and spend your Wednesday night in the satisfying throes of the exceptional — and exceptionally entertaining — Illusive Tracks. It will leave you as it left me: feeling satisfied that you have witnessed one of the most original, spectacular achievements ever to grace Reel Affirmations.