Eddie Alcazar’s first full-length narrative, “Perfect,” will not appeal to all. It might not even appeal to most. But the people it would appeal to? Well, I would definitely party with them.
The film opens with a long shot of intricate, moving textures accompanied by a cryptic voiceover. Are we looking at trees? Water? A chemical spill? I still don’t know, but it’s a fitting start. This is where we return to over and over again – disorientating sights and sounds, a heady permeating soundtrack, courtesy of Flying Lotus, and pseudo-profound monologues about fear, truth, and perfection. We cut over to the main character, credited as Vessel 13 (Garrett Wareing). He’s in his bedroom, pleading with his mother over the phone, and his bloodied girlfriend is on the bed. We gather that he’s killed her in some sort of blacked out trance. In response, his mother (Abbie Cornish) sends him to a strange futuristic clinic, hidden in a lush forest somewhere far away.
Vessel 13’s “treatment” requires him to slice rectangular flesh chunks out of his face, and replacing them with clear, crystalline chunks. These are delivered to his room in cutesy commercial packaging. As the treatment continues, Vessel 13 morphs from a perfectly fit and handsome young man to a pale, hunched Gollum. He is continually plagued by disturbing visions of an ancient human society performing what look like human sacrifices. He questions what’s wrong with him, and why the treatment isn’t working. The ambiguous voiceovers continue. We hope they’ll give us answers, but they don’t.
The film asks if perfection is possible or even desirable. I’m inclined to believe Alcazar would say “no dude” to both of these questions. But the long, yearning shots of the beautiful robotic women at the clinic swimming, doing yoga, taking selfies, leads me in another direction. I can see a not-so-subtle attempt at a criticism of our social media obsessed society, but the film’s gratuity nudges it towards hypocrisy. There are a thousand more lenses with which to view “Perfect,” but I haven’t found one that reveals a coherent viewing experience.
Muddled themes aside, the viewing experience is not dull. The soundtrack, a dreamy vaporwave fantasy interspersed with static screeches for Vessel 13’s visions, fits the movie seamlessly. Alcazar’s use of color and mixed media evokes a bad acid trip or maybe something closer to a heroin withdrawal nightmare.
Executive producer of “Perfect,” and acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh described the film at the premiere as a “stunning exhibition of image and sound.” I agree. It’s not something that’s easily explained or “spoon-fed.” We, as an audience are given the freedom to formulate our own meaning from “Perfect.” As Soderbergh said, the film is an art piece that we must “bend out minds around,” not the other way around.
It’s clear that Alcazar has an intense vision, one that is likely to fall apart if spoon-fed to a wide audience. Unfortunately I can only see its faintest edges.