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Visitors - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: C
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: C
Music: A-

Visitors is the kind of movie that begs to be intellectualized. I am no longer in college and I have no desire to be, so I have very little in the way of insight to offer here, beyond asking the question: What's with movies opening with shots of apes these days? It's like even pretentious art flicks are jumping on the Planet of the Apes bandwagon. Specifically, this time, it's a gorilla: fade in from black, a black backdrop remains, and a gorilla from the shoulders up is revealed. He's just looking directly at the camera. For a long time.

An excerpt from the movie's website: VISITORS reveals humanity’s trancelike relationship with technology, which, when commandeered by extreme emotional states, produces massive effects far beyond the human species. Okay, I'm on board about halfway through that sentence, which offers some possible context that was easy to miss after watching the movie without such things in mind. This movie is comprised of only seventy-four shots, and is still nearly 90 minutes. This means each shot goes on a very, very long time. It also means it's easy to get bored. "Massive effects far beyond the human species"? Falling asleep is a pretty common human trait.

That description suggests that the many faces of average people, staring straight at the camera, sustained for an average of seventy seconds (there are fewer shots in this movie than there are minutes), are actually watching something more than just a camera. In many cases, they are clearly spellbound by something they are watching. After more than half the movie featuring only single headshots, it moves to crowd shots: first, people walking. Then, after some time it takes to realize it, a crowd of people watching what was likely a televised sport. This is all in slow motion, so it even takes a while to notice drinks in people's hands.

By the time it gets to that (presumably) sports-watching crowd, Visitors has already spent ample time establishing itself as a tester of patience. I mean, for the average movie-goer. This is not a movie for mainstream audiences. Overachieving film majors will probably cream their jeans over this movie, with its pointedly average faces under universally well-prepped hair. Even the woman with the beat-down face, aged to the point that it looks almost like it's melting: her hair is perfect.

There's something compelling about that face, I'll admit, as there is in nearly all the faces. Visitors challenges the viewer in some justifiable ways, not least of which is the way it forces you to consider individuals in ways beyond fleeting glances. But then writer-director Godfrey Reggio cuts to a shot above the moon, which he does a few times in the course of the film. And you're brought back to the notion that this movie tries a little too hard for profundity, a high-minded artistic expression with no narrative. Reggio is clearly asking the audience to come to its own conclusions, the way the Mona Lisa invites interpretation of meaning. I just don't think this movie will have that kind of staying power.

Shot entirely in black and white, there are a few stunningly gorgeous shots, especially when it finally moves from the faces occasionally intercut with abandoned buildings to Louisiana swamps. And the original score, by Philip Glass (of course), turns the movie into an 87-minute music video. Except as far as music videos go, this may be the dullest one ever made.

It says something that, by the time the camera is slowly headed toward the light through a half-opened exit door from inside an abandoned building, I was thinking, Please let this be the end -- the exit from this movie! Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate long shots, and I have long had a distaste for disorienting rapid-fire editing. This movie, however, swings to the other extreme. Did I need ninety minutes of this? God knows I'm not going to tell anyone else that they do.

&apos;Duh...&apos; says one of the many voiceless faces in the muted VISITORS.</a>

Overall: C+
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