The band Lord Huron has produced, I guess, this trippy feature film inspired by their album “Vide Noir.” And for the record, the music’s pretty cool, kind of twangy “Twin Peaks” ethereal, unmoored in time, fitting for a pseudo-psychedelic film noir set in 1960s LA.
The movie? It’s best summed up by the phrase “interesting failure.” It has a great look, some striking scenes, a pretentious, pedestrian story that crawls by performed by something short of the most compelling cast every assembled.
Too mean? Hey, I’m a big David Alan Grier fan, too!
Victor Mascitelli plays Buck, a mop-topped young man who wakes up woozy and filthy, lying in the dirt amidst the detritus of whatever was in his 1967 Chevy Impala — a map, a pocket knife, a Voice-o-Gram 45 rpm disc that he recorded with his best gal back home in Detroit.
As Buck has awakened in the dark in the dust on the edge of the desert outside of LA, we can guess the story without the need for any hard-boiled film noir voice over narration.
There’s a dame. Her name is Lee (Ashleigh Cummings). She’s a singer. And in over-edited quick-cut flashbacks, we hear her wondering if Buck is ever going to get her out of Detroit.
News flash — he didn’t. News flash — she left. That’s how he wound up in LA. And we’re guessing, that’s how he got himself beaten up and left for dead, “Black Brained” into a near stupor by the mob guy who got Lee’s attention and got Lee studio time to cut an album.
The narrative takes us through the events that led to this dumping in the dust, sections of story given chapter titles — “The Emerald Star,” “Whispering Pines” etc., mostly taken from Lord Huron song or album titles — because that’s something Tarantino did and every green screenwriter figures it’s the only way to organize a script.
Buck bumps into a psychic, assorted thugs, a mobster who notes his name “sounds like the stuff legends are made of,” a ’60s street gang banger, musicians and even a dead singer that he hallucinates as fronting a band he’s listening to in a not-quite-swank nightclub.
He picks up clues. And he keeps hearing about this hot new drug, “Vide Noir,” the best way to escape, “obliterate the self,” all that jazz.
Buck’s the sort of anti-hero who takes a licking and keeps hunting down Lee. Buck’s a guy who’d never roll into LA without his old hunting rifle in the back seat, or that buck knife in his pants in case he gets clobbered and locked in the trunk of his own Impala.
The best scene has him crashing a recording session set up for Lee, pretending to be a replacement player and not even trying toftake his way through reading sheet music or playing his learn-by-ear acoustic guitar. The Great D.A. Grier is the session producer.
But even that scene plays as flat, under-developed and kind of amateurish. Mascitelli’s IMdb page is all “additional crew” and “camera and electrical equipment” credits, which is obvious from his performance.
Without a compelling, believable lead, someone who can come off as naive and out of his depth, but who just might have inner resources he calls on to “save my Lee,” give us emotions showing he longs for her, fears for her and faces down his own fears to find her, “Vide Noir” devolves into some pretty set pieces that might grab the eye and set up as classic genre moments, but wither and die thanks to the performances.
The production design is cool, the cutting and staging are sharp. But the movie that comes out of all that doesn’t play.
So maybe I’ll give the record a listen.
Rating: unrated, violence
Cast: Victor Mascitelli, Ashleigh Cummings, Kanya Iwana, Todd Stashwick and David Alan Grier
Credits: Directed by Ariel Vida, scripted by Ben Schneider. A Yellow Veil production, a 1091 release.
Running time: 1:36