The first time I had ever heard of This is Not a Movie, I was in the process of searching out the slightly more popular Iranian feature named This is Not a Film. The titles are easy to confuse, but the content is about as drastically opposed to one another as you could possibly get. This is Not a Movie is not a documentary focusing on political oppression, but it is a rather radical piece of cinema in its own right. The great pressure within the film may or may not come from an external force, but it is most assuredly not of the political variety. This is a story revolving around a single man who is having a existential crisis. While the world ends. This is Not a Movie is the first original feature length film from director Olallo Rubio, and his movie looks to set itself up as a calling card. Within only a few seconds of the movie, it will be quite obvious to any potential viewer that this is certainly a filmmaker with a whole lot to say, and he brings with him a lot of influences that he intends to unleash on the audience. A hodge podge collection of visual aesthetics, psychological examinations, and pop culture recollections, This is Not a Movie is a piece of surrealist cinema that beckons for its audience to truly examine it. Pete Nelson (Edward Furlong) is a man trying to figure out his own identity. No, not just in the figurative sense of the concept, but also in the literal sense. He doesn’t have any true memory of his life before he checked into a Las Vegas hotel room. The only things that are abundantly clear are that his name is Pete Nelson and the world is going to end in the next 48 hours. While trying to place the pieces together, Pete finds himself discussing his existential problem with the various characters who inhabit his mind. Here, in this cramped hotel room, Pete finds himself talking to his own alter egos and enjoying the pop-culture dominated television that sits in the center of the room. Will Pete actually manage to figure out his own identity? Or will the end of the world come before he realizes the answer to any of these burning questions?
Edward Furlong is one of those actors that has always kept me as a fan, despite all of the personal problems that have plagued his career. As a child of the nineties, he retained me as a fan due to his roles in Terminator 2, Brainscan, and American History X. His resurrection within the past few years has been quite memorable. Although he has worked primarily in the field of independent cinema, he has at least ventured into some of the more interesting projects out there. His turn in the Night of the Demons remake was surprisingly entertaining, and possibly even slightly depressing. Bloated and haggard from a rough life, that film did not feature the same Edward Furlong that we all remembered. His appearance in that film was particularly bleak, but in this recent movie he at least looks relatively cleaned up and has lost some weight. This is Not a Movie, however, is not the sort of film that cares to deliver a leading man who fits the perfect mold of a GQ model. Featuring at least one character who spews continual anti-establishment rhetoric, this is a movie that certainly pursues an intellectual ideal. However, the degrees of success that it reaches are up for debate.
Director Olallo Rubio attempts to create a political satire in the vein of Dr. Strangelove, but tries to infuse it with sociological and political rants that are similar to what one might find in a Richard Linklater film. Is this self indulgent? Absolutely. The intellectual conversations roll from one punchline to the next. The first projection of the Pete Nelson character that we are introduced to has an obsession with political and philosophical discussion points that are not very original or clever. Most of these points are forgivable, however, because it seems as if that is the nature of the character. I don’t believe the filmmaker thought he was reaching any sort of poignant “truth” with this character, nor being all that original. This character is the wannabe-philosophy student who took two semesters and then dropped out because he felt he would be a part of the "system" if he graduated. The entire film follows in a line of semi-pretentious questioning, all of which hinges on a performance by Edward Furlong. These multiple performances by Furlong are achieved through a brilliantly compiled bit of green screen work that belies any low budget background that the film may ultimately have.
Punctuated by numerous faux-movie trailers and public service announcements, the movie takes a humorous look at the "Grindhouse" (as in the Tarantino/Rodriguez film) archetype. Rubio instead takes his trailers and produces numerous skits that further the idea of a "system" that oppresses society. Whether it be through religion or the politics of the day. The movie doesn’t so much as purport this ideal, which is quite popular amongst pretentious wannabe intellectuals, but satirizes it as much as it does the rest of the political concepts that become targets throughout the movie. The inclusion of references toward numerous Megadeth songs and album titles during these sequences almost seems to elucidate on how much stock the filmmakers put into any one singular ideological concept. However, I could be completely wrong about that. Maybe Rubio just loves heavy metal! After all, Slash (from Guns & Roses fame) does provide the soundtrack for the film, which is actually quite stupendous. If I felt that the director wasn’t be satirical with much of its philosophy and political namecalling, I probably wouldn’t enjoy the film as much as I did. However, if you look at the entire production as a humorous take on hipster-ism and politics in general, it is both entertaining and intriguing.
This is Not a Movie is far from being perfect. It does border upon the realm of pretentiousness, and numerous audience members are going to be turned off by this. However, if you’re open to the satirical edge that the movie delivers, then this is certainly a fun piece of stylish cinema that should be viewed by all fans of unusual cinema. The movie even features a clip from Alejandro Jadorowsky’s Holy Mountain, and if that doesn’t tell you the direction that this movie is coming from… Regardless, I think it is certainly worth a look for interested audiences.