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Mobius Movie Review

Written by Milos Jovanovic

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Directed by Joaquin Montalvan
Written by Joaquin Montalvan & Eunice Font
2006, 77 minutes, Not rated

Paul E. Respass as Mark/Caleb
Ivan Naranjo as Wise Man
Joaquin Montalvan as Ashtaroth
Fred Lucas as Bibbity Spout
Teem Lucas as Gaia

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Slash, hack, blood, gore, breasts...and again. Most of the time, those five words will faithfully describe majority of indie horror films one seems to find nowadays, as it seems that extremity is the nearest pathway towards success (or notoriety, as you might imagine). Even if the films are not loaded with gore, they will feature one traditional monster or another, and zombies seem to be particularly popular. As it turns out, the advent of digital camera has created many backyard Romeros and Fulcis, and not yet a single Lynch or Jodorowsky. Until a copy of Joaquin Montalvan's Mobius landed in my mailbox, and I was shown that this kind exists, as well.

Mobius tells a story of twin brothers Mark and Caleb, both on the different spectres of society. A long time ago their mother was murdered, and Caleb was the one to find her. Mark takes it upon himself to care for his brother, but, as the years go by, and Caleb sinks into despair and nothingness, Mark's resolve is loosening its grip and he ultimately casts his brother off, refusing to even speak to him. Split from each other, brothers start a lengthy walk on an uncertain road leading to reconciliation — a trip which will change the both of them for good. And while Caleb seems to be finding his way, with a help of a wise old Indian (of Geronimo, not Ghandi variety), Mark's life starts slowly dissolving.

Mobius is the feature-length debut of UCLA grad Joaquin Montalvan, who previously helmed some shorts and a couple of documentary subjects, most notably one about hurricane Katrina. Considering his academic credits, it would be grossly unfair to call him a "backyard Lynch", but the spirit of David Lynch's work is strongly present within this film. Basically, what we have here is a collection of recollections, seen through the eyes of either Mark or Caleb. Montalvan separates the two by using colour in Mark's scenes, and black and white for Caleb, which creates an interesting split between the two, additionally influencing your outlook on this story. On their voyage, both brothers meet odd characters who speak to them in philosophical riddles, creating surreal situations.

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By now, you should be aware that this is not a film for everyone's taste. A slow burn, even at its seventy-five minutes of running time, and with storyline presented in pieces left for viewer to pick up along the way, Mobius nevertheless has some mysterious appeal attached to it, mostly thanks to very capable direction and editing and likable performances of its leads. Starring as Mark/Caleb is Paul E. Respass, who is not an exceptional actor, yet he nails the both parts by just looking right and evoking the proper reaction from the viewer. Ivan Naranjo is the pick of the support cast, playing the old Indian with an aura of wisdom radiating from his body, while the director himself has a bit part as an auxiliary character which appears to both Mark and Caleb, looking quite like a young Robert Smith (of The Cure fame).

Additional flavour is added by some location work. Certain parts of the film have been shot in the desert (I believe I saw Death Valley mentioned in the ending credits), and those count among the more interesting bits of the film. The desert setting, along with "the messenger" (a mysterious character who inhabits the area), invoke the comparison with Alejandro Jodorowsky's work. Also, the desert scenes made me think of the latter-era Doors — I could almost hear "Riders on the Storm" during some stretches. The film was shot completely on DV, but here it looks better than usual, especially the black and white scenes which are virtually grainless and almost always well-lit.

Still, the mere presence of such a fragmented narrative and arthouse leanings will make this a difficult sell to the regular audience. Even the most battle-hardened indie fans will find Mobius a laborious experience, as there are no conventional "scares", nor gore or nudity, not to mention the fact that, say, Eraserhead looks superbly comprehensible in comparison. That said, this film will find its audience, and they might find it an interesting experience. Montalvan makes the best out of this opportunity, and I'll be looking forward to seeing if he can build on this. If you enjoy early Lynch, Jodorowsky, and similar work, give this one a go.

Audio, video and special features will not be graded as this is a screener.

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Movie: 3 stars
Video: n/a
Audio: n/a
Features: n/a
Overall: 3 stars

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