Why I Cannot Wait for The Death and Life of Otto Bloom
Posted by Lee Zachariah
It’s unusual to be champing at the bit to see a director’s first ever film. Usually it’s that first film that gets you excited about their next film, but Cris Jones has already established an impressive filmography of shorts that should have everyone keyed up about his feature debut.
Jones has written and directed the MIFF opening night film The Death and Life of Otto Bloom. Like Merlin in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, the titular Bloom experiences time backwards, possessing only the memory of future events. It’s a continuation of the themes Jones has been exploring throughout his career, and if you want an idea of what to expect on opening night, it’s worth diving into his back catalogue.
His 2001 film The Heisenberg Principle seems like the most direct inspiration, featuring a man alone in a field with no memory of who he is or why he’s there.
In his 2003 film Excursion, a man trapped by the corporate world fantasises about casting off the shackles of modern life and heading off into the unknown. The world and its manufactured trappings makes no sense to him, and he yearns to leave it all behind.
In 2008, his short film The Funk continues this disaffection with modern life. This short felt like a generational shift for Jones. His previous works, apparently shot on film, gave way to the cleaner, crisper imagery of The Fun: shot on digital stills over the course of the year, it felt like a filmmaker finally connecting with the tools that suited his vision.
Fuelled by a propulsive score and commanding narration, The Funk is a melding of the still life and the animated. It was like someone handed the script for Fight Club to Guy Maddin, but it’s far from a pastiche. The Funk is a profoundly original, energetic and compelling work.
Jones’s films play almost like existential mysteries. Reality is a puzzle and his characters sift through unreliable memories to solve it, usually without success. Clues lie in their philosophical and mythical trappings: the man in The Heisenberg Principle imagines a cat living within the box; a close-up of the name tag worn by The Funk’s Jack reveals his surname to be Sisyphus.
Since The Funk emerged in 2008, I’ve been periodically searching for Jones’s name to see if Australia had snapped out of its own funk and finally given him the resources to make a feature film. In short, July 28 can’t come soon enough.