Dir. Joe Clarke, USA 2020
The combination of unique direction and innovative writing makes this movie a must see. Clarke really went the extra mile to tell a personal heartwarming story while maintaining the element of humor and wit. Many directors these days attempt to tell the film’s story through “artsy” choices and lack luster when it comes to the writing and overall value of the story, but if any film has used these artistic acrobatics properly, it’s Alta Vista.
Joe Clarke’s seventh feature encapsulates so many of the psychological pitfalls we experience throughout life. During the course of the film, the main character finds himself struggling to follow through with chasing his dreams in light of the tragedy of losing his father to cancer. The battle of maintaining the hardships of moving to LA on his own, leads him down some of the paths that many of us face in the real world; drug addiction, disassociation, anxiety, depression. The most compelling element of this film was the director’s choices in conveying Clarke’s personal story through the main character’s. Additionally, in balancing some of the darker moments, the film consistently exuded a refreshing and entertaining element of humor.
One example of such choices being the supporting characters surrounding the protagonist and their interactions with him. At any time seemingly banal moments, like getting the mail, can result in heavily exaggerated interchanges (i.e. a full blown Kung Fu battle) further illustrating “Sam’s” disassociation with his own reality. This motif gives Alta Vista a hilarious contrast between the heavy moments during which the plot elicits deep emotion from the viewers, and a playful surreality endearing us to the main character.
One delightful visual metaphor of Sam’s inner turmoil is the length of his hair in any given scene. Even though no time has passed, if he is going through particularly a hard time in a scene, the next cut will show him sporting long shaggy hair and an unkempt beard…at the moment his luck shifts… his hair is suddenly back to a nicely trimmed length. These types of storytelling devices make this film so unique, and cause one to really deliberate about what inspired the director to utilize these types of bold modalities. In addition to the profound narrative form, I was entertained through the duration and walked away having gleaned something new from my expectation of an independent film, which earns this feature a ten star rating. – Andrew Holmes
Coda: As a composer, I was fascinated by Alexander Kachingwe’s score! The synthesizer design gives the film a pleasantly somber demeanor reminiscent of an 80’s or 90’s synth patch design, with the production value of a contemporary score. It meshes so perfectly together with the feel of being alone in LA, scraping by on hope and cheap weed. I loved it!