Friday, March 6, 2009

Film #110: 12

Without fear of overhype, Lawrence Bridges' 12 can safely be called an epic. This amazing movie is the result of fifteen years worth of production work by writer/director Bridges, and you can feel each bit of impassioned care that went into each of its smudged, torn, spliced-up frames. Watching this grandly-scaled, literary comedy is like watching the most beat-up work print you can possibly imagine; this, coupled with Bridges' beautiful photography, makes 12 into a visual treat.

It's set in modern L.A. where a band of Greek gods--Zeus, Hermes, Aphrodite and the like--have gathered to bring to a close a myth birthed eons ago. Seems that Zeus (Eugene Rubenzner) once condemned two mortals to a loveless eternity; their task, in order to feel love and humanity once again, was to discover the yet-to-be-written book that closely paralleled their lives. Now the couple (played by Allison Elliott and Tony Griffin) have found the book: it's The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, so now they must decide whether to give up eternal life or rejoin humanity. Complicating things for the Gods, of course, are mortal love interests, including 12's unlikely leading man: a deadbeat commercial actor named Allen Allen (Allen Lulu, in a fun performance).

12 is most likely not for everyone; it's wild editing style could turn some off. And it's truly epic-lengthed (though I'm more familiar with the three-hour version that played at the Dahlonega International Film Festival, there is a 2-hour cut out there as well). But for those with a taste with more complex films, this is for you. A successful commercial director, Bridges financed 12 himself and worked on it from 1988 to 2003. The mind-boggling closing credits act as sort of a yearly diary for the production; first Bridges' starts out almost solo, and by 2003, he has hundreds of artisans at his disposal. This is probably because Bridges started showing rough cuts of 12 at makeshift drive-ins around L.A. and New York in the mid-90s, no doubt attracting a few more collaborators in the process.

All the work paid off. Bridges's photography and editing are superb; the cast (particularly Lulu and the astonishing Allison Elliott, perhaps most notable for her roles in The Spitfire Grill and The Wings of the Dove); the story is sweeping--just giving yourself over to the film is a breathless flight. And the soundtrack is stupendous: Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Bach, Prokofiev, Berilioz, Tchikovsky, Brian Eno, Lisa Germano and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet? How can you lose with those guys on the jukebox? It might be hard to find, and hard to figure out, but 12 is very much worth the effort.

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