Shirkers ★★★★

About fifteen minutes into this film, I was gripped with a fury that never let go, the most intense I've felt all year during a film. I knew the bombshell that happens halfway through SHIRKERS (one that simultaneously is better for not knowing but also impossible to avoid knowing as it's the premise of the film, yet nonetheless, I'll tread lightly), so that may have influenced things, but there's a gradual build up to that reveal as Sandi Tan (director/writer of SHIRKERS and writer/star of the never-finished 1992 film SHIRKERS) divulges details of her filmmaking mentor Georges and what could be described as his seduction of her. That this seduction never takes sexual form doesn't reduce the intensity of my disgust with and fury about the impending violation.

Filmmaking is a communal creative act. Filmmaking is also a vessel for the dreams of its creators. And creative risktaking in a small community is an impetus for others to follow suit. The collateral damage of removing a creative project from existence is literally immeasurable: think of that old yarn about how the Velvet Underground only sold x records, but everyone who bought one formed a band. And now imagine the Velvet Underground never existed. On the evidence presented, 1992's SHIRKERS would have been an intriguing oddity, but there's no shortage of films that started careers or movements that deserve the same sobriquet.

A line from "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out Of Denton", by The Mountain Goats, kept circling through my mind: "When you punish a person for dreaming his dream, don't expect him to thank or forgive you." Of course, Sandi Tan is female, and that context hangs heavy over the first half, but by the end of the film it's clear that Georges doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender or race. Did he know the damage he caused? And if so, did he enjoy it? We'll never know. And instead its creators are bound together by something else, a void, a wound that can never heal.

I want to say something intelligent to sum up, but honestly, all I can say is this: fuck you, Georges.

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