Filming and Life
In “Phantom Images”, Rob Moretti (“Crutch”. “An Affirmative Act”) is Darwin King, a filmmaker who has lost the funding for his next film but continues shooting it. The film will be his last as he is dying, living on morphine and raking his memory. The economy has caused his film to collapse and he is left with his memories as he reflects on his life and meditates on the project he will never finish.
Director Matthew Doyle gives us a new gay themed film which is different from the kind of films that we usually get. It is short on action but long on ideas and I suppose I would label this as a thinking person’s film. Doyle looks at several important themes—identity, desire, ageism, communication across generations.
Darwin King looks at the relationship between the characters of his non-film film. The movie is wordy as it should be when we consider that self-reflection brings back ideas that might be buried in memory. For Darwin King, his film triggers ideas from his past. There is really no plot and if there were it would not be fair to where the movie takes us. I have the feeling that this is a very personal film for both the director and for Moretti. We follow the narrative (something we do not usually get in gay film) which comes to us in short scenes that build to a look at Darwin King and even though we get his thoughts, I feel we still do not really get to know him. He remains an enigma for us to think about when the film is over. For me this is an intellectual approach to film which is welcome—it is not that often that we get a gay themed film that makes us think. The subtexts and themes play into the overall idea of what a life is about and how we react to the way we have lived when we realize that the end is not far away.
My own personal opinion on this film is that it is not only welcome to the canon of gay film but also one that it badly needed. Life is not all fun and frivolity and when we stop to think about what we did as we lived, we realize that. I must give a special shout out to Moretti who has matured beautifully into this role. It is easy to identify with his character yet not always pleasant to do so. For me, he came across as a kind of gay everyman whose life at the end is consumed by memory–perhaps as a way to escape the physical pain. I loved the film and found myself thinking about it for many hours. In some ways, I was reminded of Tennessee Williams’ powerful drama and memory play “The Glass Menagerie”. While the only thing the two share is memory, we see how much memory affects the way we live…and die. Could this bring about a change in gay cinema? We shall have to wait and see.