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Local Filmmaker Antero Alli Returns with 'The Book of Jane'

With The Book of Jane, director Antero Alli taps into his feminine side
Antero Alli'BOOK' LEARNING: The arrival of Jane in their lives helps couple Alice (Marianne Shine) and Colette (Madeline H.D. Brown) see things differently.

Channeling Robert Anton Wilson's E-Prime philosophy, a homeless nomad on the Berkeley campus encounters Alice, a professor of comparative religious studies, and suggests Alice remove all forms of the word 'is' from her book.

Jane the nomad also carries a doll resembling Little Red Riding Hood, performs elaborate raven rituals on campus and seems schooled in pre-Hellenic goddess worship, the very topic of Alice's expertise. As a result, Alice and her lover, Colette, bring Jane over for dinner at their Berkeley residence, which doubles as a ritual chamber. Jane suggests that eliminating 2000 years of patriarchal religions can only be accomplished by 2000 years of goddess worship.

The Book of Jane, the vibrant film in which such glorious conversations unfold across the wooded UC campus, comes to us from Antero Alli, himself a Berkeley dude with intricate experience in Jungian archetypes, goddess mythologies, the language of astrology and exactly just how being raised by his mother and grandmother shaped the course of his own creative career. The film screens at Anno Domini, Fri., Feb. 28. What a way to get primed for Cinequest ahead of time.

As she wanders around campus, Jane converses with the doll and we come to realize the doll operates as a psychic conduit to a child Jane once lost, when the child was very young. Alli's films always contain heavy symbolic elements in addition to the narrative structure and in this case, ravens often appear, as do numerous hallucinogenic thought sequences.

Throughout the film, Alli's own writings and musings, literally, figuratively and hysterically, emerge from every which direction. In one scene, Jane philosophizes on the subject of synchronicities, a phenom on which Alli regularly waxes poetic. "Once you believe every single coincidence is meaningful," says Jane, "your brain turns to mush, a smoky grey mush of deep and meaningless vagueness. And then you become just another cosmic critter in the crackerjack box of life."

In another scene, we receive Alli's eight-circuit brain teachings in regards to absorbing, integrating and transmitting knowledge—a la Tim Leary and Robert Anton Wilson. Jane says if one acquires a mountain of knowledge, it means nothing if one cannot integrate and transmit that knowledge.

"It's not enough to know that shit happens," Jane says. "You have to know how shit happens and you have to know why. Otherwise your goldfish mind will never stop eating data and it will bloat and die from information overdose. And you will die never knowing what you missed out on but you will feel that you missed it anyway."

At that point in the film, Alli's wife, Sylvi, shows up with an accordion to serenade everyone with "The Idiot Song," a melodic tune she penned herself. The scene comes across as spicy anima/animus bouillabaisse with a Robert Anton Wilson side dish and Jungian-Ren-Faire reduction.

Interesting psychologies also reveal themselves in the relationship between Alice, a fairly distant and cold professor, sick of her students, and artist Colette, someone more vibrant and much younger. Alice seems like Colette's muse and both remain dedicated to goddess worship. Jane, as the nomadic opposite to their sedentary life, provides enough shock and trauma to transform Alice's entire existence, if I must say as much without giving away the ending.

Ultimately, The Book of Jane becomes a hysterical feminist saga, with three female main characters Alli says he identifies with, as a dude originally raised by strong women. After numerous films throughout his career, Alli says he now realizes the degree to which this shaped his own psyche.

"This is the first film where I featured primarily female characters," Alli says. "Because I finally felt ready or maybe brave enough to risk writing for strong female characters. In doing that, it just became really apparent that most of what I've come to know about the feminine psyche and women really came from being raised by my mother and grandmother and being around their behavior and the games they played, how they acted and reacted."