I was wracking my brain for about a week before the illusive BHFF Secret Screening at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. My mind went to a lot of weird places. I was thinking “oh whoa what if it’s Dario Argento showing the original Suspiria” (they told us it could be an old classic or a new film), then I thought it could be The Ranger since I know a lot of people affiliated with BHFF are in with The Ranger folks. I also just sort of hoped that it would be Lords of Chaos or The House that Jack Built simply because I want to see both of these movies today, now, immediately.
The Secret Screening was none of those things. It was something I would have never guessed, and that’s fine, because it ended up being one of the craziest movies I have ever seen in my entire life. WHAT MOVIE WAS IT? I imagine you must be wondering this by now and I guess I have to tell you because that’s the point of me sitting in front of a computer typing these words. It was PERFECT, directed by Eddie Alcazar, who is best known for his work with Flying Lotus on Kuso and Fuckkkyouuu. He’s also recently directed a documentary for HBO called Tapia about infamous boxer Johnny Tapia. Flying Lotus did the score for PERFECT, which is one awesome thing in a list of about a billion about this film.
PERFECT starts with psychedelic visuals of I’m still not sure what, with a voice giving some profound statements about life, love and fear. We are then transported to the bedroom of a nameless young man played by Garret Wareing (Independence Day: Resurgence). He’s calling his mother (Abbie Cornish, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri) about an urgent situation at their home. His bed is covered in blood, along with the dead body of his girlfriend.
In any ordinary movie, the focus would be put on what happened there, how did she end up dead and why does this kid not know what happened to her? However, in PERFECT, that plot point is simply a means to an end to get to a clinic that the boy must go to in order to get better. His mother went there as a girl, so it only makes sense for him to go there. This clinic looks like a house that would be in Boogie Nights, mixed with some Kubrickian Clockwork Orange-y kind of tech. It’s not certain what era this is taking place in, or honestly what universe.
The point of all patients in the clinic is to “evolve” via a path that they choose by pushing a button on a machine. A voice in an intercom who we later see belongs to an actual person named Ozawa (Tao Okamoto, The Wolverine) guides the boy who becomes known at the clinic as Vessel 13, through the evolution or as it is sometimes called “upgrading”. The upgrades are installed into the body via a tool that comes in packaging that rivals something out of Sanrio, and removing chunks of the body, brain, what have you, and replacing them with these clear cubes.
All manner of insanity happens from here on out. Vessel 13 ends up meeting the head of the clinic, Dr. Price (Maurice Compte, Narcos) and eventually he is upgraded, or is he really? I couldn’t tell you. The film does not have a linear plot by any stretch of the imagination and the best way to experience this film is by having zero expectations whatsoever, which is why it was a perfect choice for a secret screening. This film is all about mood, tone, and the incredibly awesome visual phantasmagoria that unfolds. There are some truly soul-shattering, horrifying images in this film, but also some of the most beautiful scenes in film history.
This is not a perfect film, but honestly that’s sort of the point. Perfection is impossible to attain, no matter how much a person might try. I think that’s the point that Alcazar was trying to make with this film, as well as exploring the root of the human condition as a whole. It’s a very ambitious undertaking that succeeds for the most part.
Maurice Compte was in attendance for the screening. Alcazar was supposed to join, but he didn’t, which Compte says is typical of the writer/director; that he is not a very social person and art is more important than explaining it to people. Compte did his best to explain the film from his own point of view. He said that the film only had a 13-page script originally and that Alcazar basically told Compte to say what he wanted. They had several deep conversations about life, which spurred the more philosophical aspects of the film.
I asked Compte if he felt like his character was supposed to be God, because I kind of got that vibe from the film, and he said that if anything he felt like The Great Oz. He was the leader of the clinic and he could make himself and everyone in there whatever he wanted. It makes a lot of sense when you see the film and you understand what the clinic is–to the best possible extent that anyone can. It’s really not meant to be understood, it’s just meant to be experienced, from what I can gather, and it is a visceral, moving, mind-bending experience. It shares a somewhat similar tone with both Under the Skin and Beyond the Black Rainbow while simultaneously blowing both films out of the water.
I think you should see this film if you don’t expect much from a standpoint of plot and go into it expecting an audiovisual dream experience. If that’s what you’re looking for, then PERFECT is…perfect for you.