With this beautifully crafted, marvellously executed first feature, director/writer Alex Pacheco demonstrates an impressive understanding of cinema-as-art that many more-established filmmakers can only hope to achieve.
This non-linear journey deep into self will capture and hold the imagination of anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable or desperately “stuck” in their own skin.
Tom Macy’s portrayal of Brian, a blocked young writer who will do anything to make peace with his muse and hit the next deadline, is a tour de force of tone, timing and physical presence that delights the eye and inspires the soul. As best friend Joe, Andrew Roth literally delivers a knockout punch in the extended sequence at the gym (surrounded by mirrors that will be used in many subtle ways from Brian’s medicine cabinet to a long-forgotten pool of water, allowing the principals to reflect on themselves even as layer after layer of their true beings gradually comes into focus) and wisely plays the remainder of his role in a supportive tone of understatement that beautifully underscores the universal metamorphosis which flashes on the screen (some of these lightning-fast intercuts conjure up the equally effective opening of Andy Warhol’s Flesh—cross-reference below).
As Brian struggles with his growing dependence on too-easily prescribed Prozac (a huge audience on its own), the twin, naked embraces of man and woman (Regina Acquino plays “Illusive Woman” with quiet resolve and an emotional openness that ideally foils the angst all around her) bring him rare moments of comfort and joy but also the decision of a lifetime.
Bob Massey’s original score reinforces Brian’s incredible sense of “alone” (seemingly none of his cellphone calls will ever get through) by employing a largely single-line motif from the piano/celeste hues for the forays into space and comforting strings where required. Soundscapes seldom complement the images and reinforce the moods with such understanding and skill: their complete absence speaks louder than a full-cry symphony when Brian’s isolation reaches unbearable consequences.
Attention to detail yields yet another level of craft. A poster for La Virgine Perduta (The Lost Virgin) in Brian’s home-office is marvellously discreet, just as the book title Unaccountable slips into the mix of a writer unable to ply his best-selling craft on demand. Staircases leading up to the stars, a sage, friendly Old Filipino Man (Rod Saquillo) always welcoming his other-world visitor into the otherwise empty chamber and the vanishing-limb, muscular nude in the gallery: what better metaphor than perpetually running away from all viewers.
When the moment of sex is finally at hand, there’s a raw honesty behind the ever-so-tender extended kiss that moves the coupling far beyond gay and magically into love.
Seeing Praxis, like the epidemic of pharmaceutical fixes keeping millions from ever looking deep into their own vanishing darkness, can also be habit forming and, hopefully, create the impetus to “be stronger than that” and find one’s real place on the planet. JWR