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Filmmaker Alex Raphael Rose premiered two films, “Entourage” and “It’s Lonely Being the Sun”, at last month’s Arch1 Film Festival. Thomas Humphrey recounts the event.

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On Wednesday the 5th of August, intrigued by what response his audience would give him, filmmaker Alex Raphael Rose took to the stage of the Arch1 Film Festival to screen two obstinate pieces of art. For those unfamiliar with Arch1, it’s arguably London’s finest (and possibly only) compact arts venue with a low, arched roof. It is built into the backbone of the Docklands Light Railway, and has a real subterranean, air-raid shelter vibe which made it an ideal venue for the premiere of Rose’s It’s Lonely Being the Sun and Entourage.

At the front sat a humble projector screen, and the arched tunnel channelled our vision forwards. With the lights out it was kind of like being inside the crawl space in Being John Malkovich, only we weren’t entering the mind of Malkovich, we were entering that of Rose, who stood before us rather like a cross between a Wildean illusionist and David Hockney during his “blondes have more fun” golden years. The film he was quite boldly pulling out of his hat to about fifty eager people was Entourage, a somewhat eclectic nine minutes of cinema.

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The short follows the rapid narrative arch of Matty, a lonely solitudinarian who spends most of his time alternating between having an existential crisis and gloomily burning matches. Hated by everyone, he lives a dissatisfied life, influenced heavily by the presence of his beloved cathode ray television. That is, until he falls under the magical sway of a curious infomercial selling personal entourages on the internet. From here, the film segues from something of a lugubrious look at the contemporary prominence of loneliness, meaninglessness and the influence of screen culture to much more of an uncanny thriller piece. Matty begins to be followed by his own personal, empowering circle of posses, and they transform him from an emo introvert to a superstar juggernaut, creating grounds for the film’s wryly folkloric subtitle, ‘a modern fairy tale, of sorts.’

This made for a nice comment on the power that friends (or more literally “followers”) bestow on you. But the sort of Faustian pact which Matty makes also saw Entourage fit nicely amongst the wider selection of horror films being screened on the night. However, the director did stress that he had always intended his short to provide such a sinister slice of life, and you can certainly see this darkness throughout much of his artistic work. Originally from a fine art background, Rose also clearly retains fine art’s fascination not with the conventions of producing a film (or piece of art), but with the nuts and bolts of the artistic techniques available to you. The obsession therefore seems to be with how you can manipulate the medium, and manipulate it in order to express what you really want to say; and to not do that would be almost disrespectful to the message.

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This is the real reason why Entourage feels quite so confrontationally experimental. The first 50-odd seconds relentlessly refuse to settle down as it moves between a flurry of remorseless jump cuts, and then the final minute or so descends into a sort of cosmic, trippy, super-imposed hallucinogenic nightmare. The in-between sections equally retain a sort of amusing, low-fi YouTube quality, and offbeat almost amateurish swagger that is no doubt very hard to achieve. This mix of heady experimentalism with timeless features of folklore and themes of the double, alongside aspects that could perhaps be described as “almost dadaesque” certainly make a nice melange, and if refined could go in an exciting filmic direction.

But Rose will need time first. He will need time to refine, mature and streamline the clunky elements of his style before it fully meets his protean needs (and he is currently very much in the midst of a process of learning). Out of personal preference, though, I would argue for his attempts to challenge both the audience and the norms to become less deliberate, and his exciting use of techniques should in future be married to plots that are a little less hasty. Though Entourage’s furious filmic style could equally be an artistic choice, ideally suited to the restless tastes of the YouTube generation, so maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about. After all, the film certainly seemed to be enjoyed by the crowd on the night.

Check out “Entourage” on YouTube.  

Thomas Humphrey

A freelance film journalist and acting director of the Nottingham Alternative Film Network. This network aims to champion short films, and tries to bring great features which UK distributors overlook to the city.

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Posted on Sep 10, 2015

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