May 11, 2010
46-year-old filmmaking amateur Anthony Stagliano cropped together a mess of scenes, each more disillusioned and nightmarish than intended, for his quiet, sickly dozer "Fade". But traditional rookie hazing is steered from Stagliano and redirected at his movie's unlucky lookers -- and it's not the typical friendly fare, either, but instead an incivility (albeit a wishful one) whose inaugural objective was flipped completely. The finishing number is cold, morbid, and sloppy. And it's not in the least fun -- it's hardly respectable, in fact. As the main character speaks of his diary, "I wanted this to be the tale of a unique journey, an unusual life in an extraordinary decline. It's not." This very well could've been spoken of the actual feature as well. Had it been, it would've been bravely accurate.
Arthur "Artie" Dichter (David Connolly, who, in 2006, passed away from the very disease this film focuses on), whose name is as obscurely directed as his withering state (he's only addressed as such when being talked about in the third person, as "Artie"), is suffering from a deadly form of insomnia, which, in turn, is dismantling his marriage to Anne (Sarah Lassez). But why should we care? In regards to most films, that question would sound belligerent (and it may here as well, at least for the time being), but when watching "Fade" it's trivial: not until the final 10 minutes do husband and wife as much as exchange sounds, and even then they do so in flashback -- either of them remembering a night in which Arthur returned from his gig as a soda vendor, then met a silk-gowned Anne on the couch with no urgency or enthusiasm, kissing her cheek, touching her nose, and finally resting his head upon her shoulder.
But that's not all. The pair hardly still shares a bed, and their memories have dismissed their most sacred moments together -- Anne confesses to her priest both that she's expelled Arthur from their room because of his constant tussling and that she's forgotten the day of their wedding. This despondency I suppose could represent the affects that Artie's illness has caused both he and Anne, but it's not restricted to the depiction of their relationship, or their individual identities, or the theme of the story. It additionally encompasses the film's technical (in)competency and, most unfortunately, the erosive relationship Stagliano forms between his movie and its audience. For instance, when we first here dialogue, more than half the picture has been disposed of -- and by both its nonconsecutive progression and viewers, as it is later realized to be insignificant anyhow (previously, the only words spoken were heard via voiceover of Arthur's dreary video journal, some of which is shown in the waning minutes of this dire odyssey). How could one be drawn to such cinema?
"Fade" is a presumptuous, lowly independent ordeal with an aspiring intention and a contradicting function. It thinks it knows where to go, but it doesn't: its brief 74-minute runtime is comprised of maybe 55 minutes of footage -- many frames strobe (inaudibly) back and forth from any mixture of two shots and/or stills -- and, then yet, could do away with another 20 minutes of a combination of long, silent takes of Arthur trying to pass the time one would normally spend sleeping -- there are multiple shots of him stumbling down desolate streets and standing/climbing in his kitchen (alone, of course). One inclusion that seemed grotesque -- though, in the same, signified the summation -- is a dream (a nightmare) that Anne describes as one that she and Artie suffered dividedly, wherein a man is yanked from his and another woman's sheets by black-hooded entities who subsequently castrate him. This is equally a metaphor for Arthur's sexual ineptness and a miscalculated juncture in image demonstration, as the film itself is. In a vile manner, it, too, could be an expression of the deadening experience one would likely have viewing it. But I doubt that was in mind during production.