Sundance Film Fest l994–A remarkable talent and distinctive sensibility are evident in Dan McCormack's directorial debut, “Minotaur,” an intelligent meditation on the nature of celebrity in American popular culture. The intellectual intent, demanding artistry, and ambiguous tone of this short film (55 minutes) present a challenge to its potential viewers, who are likely to be of the art-house, film festivals, and midnight ilk.
The puzzling, often cryptic story traces the meteoric rise and fall of the Minotaur (Michael Faella), a popular singer in the mold of Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra late in their careers. Episodic, non-linear, and self-reflexive, pic follows the Minotaur as he looks back on his childhood, rise to super-stardom in the l950s, concert performances to multitudes of fans, drug addiction and self-absorption, and tragic demise in the l970s.
It is to McCormack's credit, as writer and director, that the tone of his complex meditation is not easily decipherable. On the surface, the film has the air of a classic camp, but as the peculiar tale unfolds, it assumes a dark, even Gothic, mood.
Minotaur's achievement is in finding the pertinent visual strategy to match its narrative. The first scene, which is as visually stunning as it is emotionally disturbing, sets the ambience of the entire work. Sitting in a swimming pool, shaped as a huge champagne glass, in the midst of his living room, Minotaur is “socializing” with the beautiful and sexy Cindy (Holley Chant). She is mumbling and giggling in the water, when he suddenly strangles her, in a burst of obsessive, out-of-control conduct–under the influence of drugs.
Michael Faella gives a disturbing performance in the demanding role of the fat, bald and unattractive singer. The rest of the ensemble just plays secondary roles, sort of signposts along the character's torturous road.
Nicely shot by Dan Gillham and subtly edited by Martin Hunter, Minotaur is an art film par excellence. Special kudos go to Michael Krantz and Martha Rutan Faye, whose wonderfully stylized sets are designed in bold, formal compositions that heighten the tale's sordid elements.
Nothing is casual about the movie, whose text and subtext are extraordinarily dense for a running time of 55 minutes. Intelligent and provocative, Minotaur is a film that assumes the same qualities in its audience.
A R.F.P.L. production. Produced by Kris Krengel. Co-producer, Shelly Strong. Directed, written by Dan McCormack. Camera (Foto-Kem, color), Dan Gillham; editor, Martin Hunter; music, William T. Stromberg; production design, Michael Krantz, Martha Rutan Faye; art direction, Ann Johnstad White; set decoration, Mary Gullickson; costume design, Penny Rose; sound (Ultra Stereo), David Barr Yaffe, Giovanni Di Simoni.
Running time: 55 min.
The Minotaur….Micahel Faella