'Chained for Life' Film Review: Cult-Film-Within-a-FIlm Creates Haunting Meta-Narrative



Michael Nordine:

'Chained for Life' opens with a long quotation from Pauline Kael, the point of which is difficult to disagree with: actors and actresses tend to be more beautiful than the rest of us. Alongside Jess Weixler ('It Chapter Two'), who one of countless thespians to demonstrate Kael point, the film stars Adam Pearson, a performer familiar both for his scene-stealing turn in 'Under the Skin' and for a condition called neurofibromatosis, which covers his face in tumors. Also Read: Toronto Film Festival Adds Documentaries From Alex Gibney, Barbara Kopple, Bryce Dallas HowardThat is not the only line being blurred.

Mabel (Weixler) and Rosenthal (Pearson) develop an offscreen friendship that may or may not be based on deeper feelings, but her true intentions are left ambiguous even as a love scene is added to the script. )The film-within-a-film has the feel of a future cult classic, what with its exaggerated German accents and schlocky subject matter, and though 'Chained for Life' is a curio in its own right, it also too heady for the midnight-movie treatment.

Also Read: Netflix Orders Supernatural Series 'Midnight Mass' From 'Haunting of Hill House' TeamSet almost entirely in the abandoned hospital where that unnamed movie is being filmed, it buzzing with background chatter among below-the-line workers providing as much off-the-wall levity as the actual narrative. 'There occasional cognitive dissonance in how much time 'Chained for Life' spends skewering art films and the people who make them, given that it very much one itself (it was even shot on grainy celluloid) but it has the good sense never to be self-serious.

Cinematographer Adam J. Minnick (a frequent collaborator of 'Relaxer' filmmaker Joel Potrykus) has an affinity for playful tableaux and busy shots of the cast and crew in which everyone doing something, and it up to us to focus on what matters. An inversion of that ruse creates a genuinely surprising third-act twist that spirals the film even further into surrealism, and by the time it appeared to resolve itself, the credits have begun rolling and you are left reevaluating everything you have just seen.

Published on September 10, 2019
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