Writer-director Tim Sutton's Memphis is one of the most misguided, excruciatingly boring motion pictures ever made - an aimless, pointless dirge through sequences that drone on interminably - not only lacking form, shape and destination, but devoid of a story and well-conceived characters. Watching it through to the end is to know the true meaning of the word "masochism."
The slim excuse for a premise involves an unnamed African American singer (Willis Earl Beal) based in the titular southern city, who is experiencing massive creative block. He had a hit recording some time ago, and has now run dry. His days drone on (and on, and on) and he fritters away his hours lingering in churches, wooded areas and recording studios, crashing at his girlfriend's home, and tooling and down streets in a car, with an amputee friend (Larry Dodson).
And that is basically all there is to the film. This is the sort of picture where you keep scrutinizing the frame, looking for meaning and coming up empty-handed. Consider, for example, a sequence where the singer stumbles into the woods and scales a tree. Or another where he fiddles around with a mop, balancing it on each hand. Or another where the amputee sits in a car and stares blankly into the flame of a cigarette lighter. Some directors have made successful films about boredom and ennui - take most of Antonioni's filmography, for example - but those movies usually have a context, a frame of reference. Sutton has nothing of the sort.
The movie isn't completely satisfactory on a technical level, either. The cinematography is crisp, and a few of Sutton's compositions diverting, but the dialogue sounds muddled, occasionally even incomprehensible.
Memphis resembles a movie made by someone who not only lacks a command of narrative or cinematic language, but who appears to have never before seen a motion picture. It is a completely dispiriting and depressing experience.
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- Released: 2014
- Rating: NR
- Review: Writer-director Tim Sutton's Memphis is one of the most misguided, excruciatingly boring motion pictures ever made - an aimless, pointless dirge through sequences that drone on interminably - not only lacking form, shape and destination, but devoid of a st… (more)