Last of the Monster Kids

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Delightful Water Universe (2009)

So, it’s 2009, and what has Trent Harris been up to all this time? Well, some documentary shorts have been made, some books written. The last thing I saw with his name on it were a few video/music collages done for the “Hearing Voices” website. (A few of which are on the YouTube.) And then, seemingly out of nowhere, “Delightful Water Universe” crops up.

What to say of it? Well, first off, Harris fans (How many of us are out there?) will probably go ga-ga over it. What will everyone else think? Who cares! Right out of gate, the movie inundates us with his unique brand of weirdness. The movie claims to be based on true events that will take place in the future. From here, we are reintroduced to the director’s trademarks. Plenty of funny, quotable dialogue, most of it in the form of obtuse insults, are on display here. (The writer/director can’t take credit for the highly amusing real Dan Quyale quotes that are trotted out a few times.) Perhaps more important is the odd story which involves a number of things, such as a dark future where corporations own everything and Bigfoot controls our thoughts with a hat made of windshield wipers. A vast conspiracy threatens to unleash the Delightful Water Universe on the world, enslaving us all to prime-time television.
Or is it? Perhaps the whole thing is just the incoherent ramblings of a nut locked up in an asylum, besieged on all sides by paranoid beliefs and delusions, and an apparent Burning Man festival going on just outside his walls.

Off-beat obviously but the movie is not as immediately accessible as some of Harris’ previous work. The whole thing is set up as a novel, leading to a heavy use of voiceover narration. Initially, it’s slightly off-putting and takes some getting use to. Also, one of the running jokes here, is that a lot of the big action takes place off-screen. Some times things are just described to us, more often we are presented with blindly artful montages. The best sequence in the film is such a scene standing in place of a wild sex scene. Instead of the hot action, we see the characters doing odd dances all set to infectious electronic music. (Also apparently composed by Harris. What doesn’t that guy do?) Though certainly a response to the paltry budget, this ends up working very well. These are moments of pure art tossed into the middle of the movie that somehow not manages to sidetrack or derail the momentum of the story. The other montages composed of old stock footage are less successful though no less hypnotic. And the long bits of underwear clad hotties seem slightly out of the place, even if it makes sense. (The movie has an overall sense of sad horniness, which it actually ends up justifying before the conclusion.)

Bill Allred isn’t buyable as a lady’s man, a joke the movie is in on, but is an amusing, easy to hang out with lead. Stefene Russell resurfaces for the first time since “Plan 10 from Outer Space” and shows the same sort of easy charm she did in that film, even if her Elmer Fudd lisp growls old by the end. However, it’s Dan Morley that gives the best performance, captivating in his derangement as the captured author that is writing the story we’re watching.
As much as I’d like to proclaim it as, “Delightful Water Universe” isn’t a full-fledged obscure weird classics like “Rubin and Ed.” The movie doesn’t really have an ending and instead just sort of circles out of logic before finishing up. Neither of the stories present have a proper conclusion and I can’t help but wonder if funding ran out or something. But still, there’s an emotional completeness here. Even if some things are left up in the air, the characters arrive at a better place then they began. The DVD case proclaims “Delightful Water Universe” as about heroic misfits, for heroic misfits. Truthful, as always. Not perfect but too infectiously quirky not to embrace, it sits proud among the rest of Trent Harris’ filmography. I mean, hell, it’s got a random musical number. You can’t resist the charms, it’ll make you as happy as a clam. [Grade: A-]

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