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Case Number 08500: Small Claims Court

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According To Occam's Razor

Elite Entertainment // 1999 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // February 2nd, 2006

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart asks: Would more complicated answers have been true if Occam had owned an electric razor?

The Charge

"From the Director of Communion Comes the 'Truth' About Aliens"

The Case

The truth is way out there…or is it?

Director Philippe Mora (who directed friend Whitley Streiber's tale of alien abduction, Communion) asks that question in According to Occam's Razor. Occam's Razor asks people to consider simple answers first, but Mora considers every answer he can find, usually with an odd sense of humor.

"The following film could not be finished by the director due to unforeseen events. This version was completed by family and close associates according to his notes," the explanation at the beginning says, dramatically suggesting that directors may have been harmed in the making of this movie. At least one. That's not the case, at least not physically, since Mora is around for the commentary.

His movie continues, with home movies on Super-8 film shot by Mora years earlier, clips of Ronald Reagan apparently talking about an interstellar threat, clips of Orson Welles discussing the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast of 1938, herky-jerky footage of apparent sightings, and people discussing alien sightings and abductions.

As Mora points out, you won't know which people talking are real, and which ones are actors. With the actors, you won't even know which ones are actors who've seen UFOs and which ones are pulling your leg. Still, it's a pretty good bet that the man identified as Sandy Gutman (Austen Tayshus, Sliver) is a leg puller, since Tayshus is a well-known Aussie comic. When he talks about his alien abduction and being probed, it definitely takes on the feel of a comedy sketch. You might wonder exactly what's going on in the sequence in which a foreign object, allegedly otherworldly in origin, is removed from under a man's skin. Or you might just feel squeamish. (That's the only bloody scene, although there's profanity, mostly from Tayshus.)

One favorite scene uses disjointed images of a real-life accident scene (or something; Mora says in the commentary that he doesn't even know) to suggest real menace, but eventually shows us the only menace he can find—a cockroach on his patio. As Mora explains, it shows how taking away a piece of the puzzle can make something routine seem more dangerous.

Mora's movie is a blend of (mostly) fast-moving images, full of the intonations of seriousness that have become cliché in the wake of TV's In Search Of. The video quality is, in a word, terrible, since Mora intentionally made it a hodgepodge of digital work, Super-8, and old bits and pieces. One of his favorite techniques is the negative image, which obscures the actors, or even makes a point here and there. The picture has lots of spots, flecks, and lines, and the camera work often looks like Mora might have been holding the thing himself while he's on camera. The sound quality is also erratic. By the end of the film, though, you'll realize that Mora wouldn't have it any other way. The jumps leave his audience disoriented enough that even hardened skeptics will be toying with the idea of alien invasions, if just for a moment.

Does Mora really believe in aliens? The answer, according to his commentary, is…"I honestly don't know." He discusses possibilities, but doesn't really answer them. If you're wondering (as I was) just what's in this guy's mind, the commentary here is a must. He describes his movie as "an experiment," citing Orson Welles's F for Fake, a fake documentary about a forger, as an inspiration, and rapping reality TV as "amateur acting." He makes points about conspiracy theories: "I think it's difficult for the government to keep secrets…Something as big as aliens, the existence of aliens, I think it would be very hard for the government to cover that up." He also offers his ideas on moviemaking, theorizing that the ability to make films easily with digital technology will produce more variety. Talk about way-out theories!

The purpose of the movie, it turns out, is to get us thinking. Mora doesn't know the answers—and you won't, either, after watching this film. It's probably not for every taste. Some parts stretch on interminably, even with his obvious flourish for editing, and it is a weird movie by any standard. I found it more interesting after watching the commentary to hear Mora's thoughts on his own work; this clears up some of the things you'll be scratching your head about if you watch this one. If your interest is piqued enough to buy it, you'll probably want to plunge in the whole way, and ponder Mora's commentary points as well as his film.

Not guilty, but don't expect to find answers here. Will someone please find Philippe Mora, already?

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 82

Perp Profile

Studio: Elite Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Cult
• Documentary
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary by Philippe Mora
• Trailer
• Outtakes








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