On the Road With Judas

Sundance Film Festival (World Premiere Dramatic Competition)–According to the press notes, JJ Lask, the writer-director of the entry “On the Road With Judas,” had never made is past the ninth grade. Nonetheless, he is certainly savvy as far as movie education is concerned for his metaphysical film borrows from (or is inspired by) the whole tradition of meta-narrative, as evident in the work of Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, “The Science of Sleep”) Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich,” Adaptation”), and most recently Marc Forster (“Stranger Than Fiction”).

Based on a real novel, “On the Road With Judas,” which is written by a writer and played by an actor, concerns the real characters and the actors playing those characters in this story. Sporadically, the film is also intermittently a fun romp about crime, love, and David Lee Roth.

Like the protagonist of “Science of Sleep,” Lask plays a novelist who lives in two worlds, both of which exist within his mind. Upping the ante of post-modern metaphysical cinema, Lask constructs characters that are both “real” and “actors.” Moreover, his main hero, Judas, is living a double life, as an entrepreneur and as a petty criminal. Hence, when Judas falls in love, he must deal with issues and feelings, which he simply doesn't know and/or cannot handle.

Like “Stranger Than Fiction,” “On the Road With Judas” blurs the line between the real and the fictional, between the creator and his creation. The film illustrates the implications of creative works that in one way or another assume their own independent lives, often leading to unpredictable consequences.

Lask's narrative is more convoluted than complex. Some films critics found the text confusing, pretentious, and ultimately not rewarding. In the end, the film makes senseat least some sensebut I'm not sure that many viewers will take the long, bumpy road to get there. (As of today, “On the Road With Judas” has no theatrical distributor).

On the plus side, it's always nice to see onscreen the gifted Kevin Corrigan, who a decade ago was in many quintessential indies (“Rhythm Thief,” “Kicked in the Head,” among them).


Running Time: 100 minutes

Writer-director: JJ Lask
Producers: Amy Slotnick, Ronan P. Nagle
Cinematography: Ben Starkman
Editing: JJ Lask, Jason Kileen
Production Design: Jennifer Dehghan
Costume Design: Anie U. Yun
Music: Human