FUTURE SHOCK: Carla Pauli copes with isolation and biotech fears in 'Canary.'
Alejandro Adams talks about 'Canary,' his entry in this year's Cinequest
By Richard von Busack
MYSTERIOUS, elliptical and bound to be the source of a few after-film arguments, Canary is the second movie by Alejandro Adams. Debuting at the upcoming Cinequest, Adams' follow-up to Around the Bay is more challenging than his previous San Jose–based drama. Adams says via phone: "I'm planning to warn people about the sequences with unsubtitled foreign-language speaking. But I'm going to leave it at that."Canary stars the haunting Carla Pauli. Her isolation leads the viewer through this future-shocked story, which is to biotech what Primer was to time travel. The gore-free speculative-fiction plot involves the harvesting—and reharvesting—of organs, with essentially three points of reference. One point is various groups of immigrants who won't be missed. The second is a roomful of office clerks half-working through a Christmas party. The third is Pauli, as the girl who does the hands-on work. I'd like another look at Canary before summing it up further; the impressionistic plot line makes much of what goes on a matter of opinion.
Adams is attuned to love-it-or-hate-it response. Around the Bay, praised by The New York Times' Phillip Lopate, also got called "the worst movie I've ever seen," by an irate Cinequest attendee. Adams says, "Canary came about because of the response to Around the Bay. I was intimidated by the early responses. Since they were often positive, I worried about sophomore slump. I thought, 'If I'm going to fail in the next film, I'm going to fail by doing something different.' That's why I decided to make Canary. As I made it I became more interested in the film as a character study and a satire than in its original idea."Canary is Adams' expansion of a short film by Sammy Samuelson: "Sammy is an incredibly vital writer, who took only seven minutes to cover the ideologically provocative ground. Since she's the one who wrote the original, she's much more distraught than I am about Repo! The Genetic Musical." In a one sentence summation, that would-be cult movie has the same outline as Canary. But what Adams plays for Bresson-like following of a figure through her rounds, Repo plays for Rocky Horror Picture Show camp.
Adams feels that the matter of directing the cast is secondary to the casting. "I saw Carla's photo on SF Casting. I got in touch and told her, 'I don't know if you can act or not, but I'm positioning you for the lead part. You won't be talking, or interacting with any characters, you'll be playing someone who lives in a van and you'll be expressing various modes of alienation.' She thought I was a freak for casting someone blind. That's actually what I did on Around the Bay, it's something I'm fond of doing. I think she was scared—no, I know she was scared. It was very courageous of her."
Currently Adams is editing his third film, Babnik, about the Russian sex-trafficking trade, starring his regular collaborator Michael Umansky. ("A dynamo," Adams calls him). Cafe loungers in Saratoga or Campbell might see Adams editing the next film on his laptop. "It's going real well. I'm taking a huge break from the film to work on Canary-related stuff. Babnik is taking some time: the subtitles are taking longer than I anticipated."
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