After Image (2001)
by Johnny Web (Greg Wroblewski)
|I watched this film
only because there seemed to be some
positive comments about the film on IMDb, and it
was lensed in Rochester, NY, my home town. Especially
interesting to me was the fact that various scenes
picture landmarks from my boyhood, some of which no
longer exist. In a perfect world, I could have
enjoyed some nostalgia in the context of a watchable
movie. In this most imperfect of worlds, it was just a
painful experience. The film is so bad that it didn't
seem possible to me that there could have been so many
warm comments on IMDb, or even any at all. After I
watched the film, I went back to look at the positive
IMDb comments and realized they were all bogus. Every
single positive submission was from people who created
IMDb accounts in 2002 just to comment on this film,
then never wrote another review.
I was had.
After Image is marketed on the DVD box as a heady thriller in the tradition of Inception, but the only thing it has in common with Inception is that I often couldn't figure out what was going on. The difference is that in Inception something actually was going on, while this film is so slow that it's essentially static. It's basically just an incoherent, weird, pretentiously arty mess. Some characters serve no purpose and could have been cut altogether, while the essential characters are either completely lacking in motivation or portrayed by actors lacking the skills to convey their attitudes. Or both. Unfortunately, the actors have to carry the load almost entirely with their facial expressions, because the screenplay features very little dialogue to assist audience comprehension. One of the main characters is a deaf mute, but her scenes don't seem especially silent compared to the others.
Maybe everybody else stopped talking to make her feel more comfortable.
The "star" of the film, and I use that term very loosely, is John Mellencamp, the artist formerly known as Johnny Cougar, who plays a crime scene photographer that has seen too many crime scenes and just can't continue in that career. I think his character is supposed to be a man of world-weary integrity, but instead just comes off as a seedy lowlife. Part of the blame for this characterization goes to Mellencamp, who is no Daniel Day-Lewis in the acting department, but an equal share must go to the make-up and wardrobe people who made him look like a weaker, sleazier version of Elisha Cook, Jr., the small guy who always played a spineless worm in the old Warner Brother movies. I expected Bogart to come back from the dead at any moment to start slapping Mellencamp around and telling him to spill the beans about the dingus.
According to IMDb, this is the only full-length film ever directed by Robert Manganelli, a Rochesterian. He also co-wrote this film, and no other full-length films before or since. So what has he done in the last fifteen years?
His IMDb bio says the following (I'm not sure when it was written):
"He is currently in pre-production on a film entitled 'Man in the Maze,' executive produced by Alexander Payne (Academy Award - 'Sideways' and 'The Descendants'). Robert's production company is also adapting a novel by TM Wright, 'Strange Seed,' into a motion picture, screenplay by Tony Schillaci."
Schillaci is the other co-author of After Image. Like Manganelli, he has no IMDb credits for more than a decade. In all fairness, it may take him a while to usher a T.M. Wright novel into a finsihed film. Ron Bass, the Oscar-winning author of Rain Man, was once paid two million dollars to write a screenplay from another Wright novel, A Manhattan Ghost Story. That was more than 30 years ago and the film is still waiting to be made. It is one of the most famous unproduced projects in Hollywood history.
Enough side-tracks. Now back to Manganelli's IMDb bio:
"Relativity Studios in Los Angeles has recently optioned Robert's reality-based television series, 'Miss Mobile Home' which is an expose on trailer park culture across America."
So he's got that goin' for 'im ...
... and one other thing: a wife who loves him enough to run around naked in his film. (See info below.)