Mars Garden ★★★½

[7]

My capsule review from my NYFF Projections coverage for MUBI:

Another part of Klahr's ongoing Sixty-Six series, Mars Garden, like all the films in the series, can be fully appreciated on its own. Like few other filmmakers (Hong Sang-soo and Philippe Garrel are two who come to mind), Klahr's work has such a consistency that it can sometimes be difficult to single out one film from the others for analysis or praise. As John Peel famously said about his favorite band The Fall, "They are always different, they are always the same."

However, Mars Garden strikes me as something of a breakthrough film for Klahr. In it, he employs a lightbox in order to make his usual comic book material highly translucent. This means that characters and designs from both sides of the page intersect in odd, unexpected ways. This has two consequences, both of which represent extensions of tendencies frequently at work within Klahr's work. First, the customary 1950s and 60s businessmen and superheroes strike their usual poses, but are shadowed by their opposing selves, or by ghosts of alternate-universe versions of the (mostly) men who populate their landscapes.

Not quite fitting into the primary frame, these spectral figures are twisted into dubious shapes, serving as avatars of the unconscious desires of the "real men." Second, the framelines and the architectural schemas between the clashing frames bisect one another, producing heavy lines of intersecting structure. Figures are pinned in, trapped in a Futurist skein of cancellation marks and imaginary I-beams. Klahr uses the lightbox to produce a double reality with less than half the freedom, masculinity on the rocks yet again.

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