88:88 is what one might call “avant-garde”. In other words, how do I describe this film? Let’s start with TIFF’s description first, saying it is
A densely layered montage that is both formally rigorous and emotionally raw, the feature debut by digital cinema incendiary Isiah Medina explodes with ideas about time, love, knowledge, poverty, and poetry.
It’s a lot like Godard’s Film Socialism. What probably struck me the most was that I didn’t hate this film. Not that I’m an enemy of the avant-garde, but I have a distaste for pretentious posturing, and 88:88’s love for quoting Badiou could have backfired horribly if it didn’t have enough material behind it. But Medina’s film is a collapsing collage that rings true. For the rest of this review, I’ll look at a few themes and how they function in the film.
There is no synchronized sound in this film, but rather, sounds pop into being and leave as soon as they arrive, sprinkled over the film’s sporadic images. Most notably is the film’s penchant for cutting up conversations or other dialogue as if we were on the other end of bad cell phone reception. This disassociation of sound from images correlates with the film’s charge that there is no reason in the world. The film ends with someone taking in a breath, as if cut off from saying more. An engaging and elegant ending to a difficult but rewarding film.
I believe the film is also indicating the erosion of texts and how their borders of such texts are dissolving. The film itself is shot on a variety of cameras, from cell phones, to Red cameras, to 16mm. The film returns to shots of someone reading a Badiou book, but holding their cell phone in front of it, as if the texts are becoming one, or perhaps that texting is overthrowing the old texts. People’s own voices are eroded and spliced, mixed and mashed.
A shot of a stove clock reading 88:88 reoccurs to bookend the film. Images of handcuffs, of shadows producing an infinity like shape, and other signs litter the back half of 88:88 as the film’s messages coalesce. What is ∞, or more importantly, what happens when it breaks?