I Can See You (2008)
Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Ben Dickinson, Duncan Skiles, Christopher D. Ford, Olivia Villanti, Larry Fessenden
Directed by Graham Reznick
In his directorial debut, sound designer Graham Reznick takes a simple tale of three ad-men trying to get back to nature in order to come up with a new campaign for a cleaning product and twists it into a warped, psychedelic nightmare.
Our main focus is on Richards (Dickinson), an artist who seems to be having some sort of emotional turmoil relating to a portrait he’s attempting to paint of his father. He’s got everything right except the face, which is just a flesh-toned oval in the middle of the man’s head. This imagery will come back to haunt him frequently throughout the film, though its significance, like much of the film’s plot, is never made clear.
Richards’ day job is for a company on the brink of going out of business. They need to come up with a new ad campaign to sell their cleaning product, and in a fit of inspiration, Richards suggest to copywriter Kimble (Ford) and company man Doug (Skiles) that they head out to the woods to try and really get to the heart of the product. Clarity, nature, vision, that sort of thing.
The trio, along with Kimble’s gorgeous but mostly mute girlfriend Sonia (Villanti), head out and quickly settle in for some old school camping. Some friends join them for a night of drinking, and Richards is finally able to muster up the courage to talk to a girl he’s had his eye on for a while, a girl named Summer. Liquid courage plays a large role in this, and before you know it, the two are doing the horizontal bop in the middle of the woods.
The next day, liquor being out of the picture, is when things get complicated. Seems Richards isn’t so good with conversation minus the alcohol, but Doug is able to get along perfectly fine. While Richards floats in the lake, sans glasses (his blurry, distorted POV makes this scene and other scenes unsettling), Doug and Summer walk off together … and are never seen again. At least, not together.
This is when the really strange and psychedelic stuff ramps up to full gear. It’s akin to an acid trip, actually. Take a hit right as the movie starts up, and chances are as soon as the acid kicks in, the movie starts twisting at the same time. Now that I really think about it, I think I’m going to try that…
The setting, some unspoken tension between Kimble and Sonia, the music and a very bizarre, out of nowhere rock and roll song (sung by director Reznick, performed by Skiles) along with the frequent appearance by former product spokesman Mickey Hauser (Fessenden), both in Richards’ head and later in the actual forest itself, work together to make I Can See You one of the most indefinable films I think I’ve ever seen. It’s certainly nowhere close to a straight-up horror film, but if one had to squeeze it into a specific category, that would be about the most fitting.
My main issues were the incredibly slow (read: deliberate) pacing for the first half of the film and the simple fact that the last 20 or so minutes really make no sense at all. I’m sure there are subtleties that would be caught on a second viewing (perhaps that acid would help in this respect), but one would really have to make sure they were focused on the subtext of nearly every scene. Though I usually don’t mind movies that utilize what could best be called “dream logic” (or “nightmare logic” in this case), it is something one really has to be in the mood for.
The cinematography and sound design give every indication that Reznick knew exactly what he was doing and what he was trying to say with I Can See You; nothing here is an accident. For that reason alone Reznick’s one to keep an eye on for future efforts; I just hope he keeps the psychedelia to a minimum next time and focuses more on a linear story.
I foresee I Can See You being a movie that splits opinions when it’s finally out to the masses; it really is something you have to be in the mood for both mentally and emotionally. Hopefully knowing what to expect will help form a better, more well rounded opinion of it down the line.
3 out of 5
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