AGALMATOPHILIA **** USA 2018 Dir: Jared Masters, Brittany Ballantyne. 72 mins
A beguilingly strange, largely improvised Hollywood-set oddity, centered around director Jared Masters’ workaholic desk clerk, whose office space in this unspecified time frame is sparsely decorated with rotary phones, manual typewriters and old television sets. He’s an obsessive-compulsive paranoiac stimulated by numbers and taking sixteen different psychoactive, experimental drugs. His 728 page “Standardised Book for Secretaries” is put to good use when a mannequin (co-director Ballantyne, providing the voice while often simultaneously operating the camera) applies for a secretary job, promising she can bring realistic thought principles to the role.
Bedecked in flamboyant fashions and make-up, Masters makes for a fabulous misfit hero – and the movie, like the John Waters films that prove a prominent influence, has genuine affection for his assorted quirks, including very specific hand washing procedures. Ballantyne doubles up as Masters’ female client, a horny young woman having an affair with a jealous lamp (“You’re so uptight!”). The film’s deliberately over-extended individual scenes and various non-sequiturs echo THE GREASY STRANGLER, though it isn’t interested in the grosser, cruder indulgences of that equally loveable movie. Instead, Masters and Ballantyne punctuate the oddball relationship stuff with disarming musical interludes, melding the stylings of Cole Porter with bands like Umbrella Jamboree via strangely touching songs containing appropriate refrains like “What does it all mean?” This movie also has cinema’s finest ever lamp-human sex scene and quote-worthy dialogue galore: “Look at us – we’re young professionals eating salads!”
Review by Steven West