Tuesday, 1 May 2012
The Reincarnate (1971) Don Haldane
I should probably admit from the outset that I have a great love and affection for films like The Reincarnate, hell not even the films themselves (or not just the films themselves, to be precise) but their very existence, their essence and continued survival. Pale ghost murmurs of 70's esoterica heard by few but the more dedicated of cine-archaeologists, their joy is in their very obscurity. I would probably still like The Reincarnate even if it was total crap, in fact the only way I wouldn't like it is if it was Night of Horror, and it isn't Night of Horror, its The Reincarnate. And its not half bad either, though only a select few will likely think it much good. It's overlong with lots of talk and little action, and only a couple of scares, but on the other hand its an unusual and interesting little piece, well acted with a nice take on the "innocent becomes stooge for cultists" genre and some thought provoking overall themes. The cultist at hand is one Everett Julian, the "stooge" one David Payne, the former a rich aesthete and follower of the arcane Sakana rites who finds himself advancing upon Death's door, the latter a young and talented artist chosen to be the next link in Mr. Julian's chain of existence. See, according to Sakana the only reality is eternity, eternity is eternal life and eternal life is reincarnation. Things get explained in more detail of course, but basically rather than stick with the standard model of escalating tension and twisted paranoia, writer/director Don Haldane opts for musing on art, knowledge, memory and the nature and meaning of life. The implicit warning of the film is that such pursuits become dangerous when unhinged from morality, but even with this element in place there is little in the way of clearly defined good or evil in the film, for all the expositional chatter quite a lot is left to the viewers own musing. The quantity of talk will likely be the biggest drawback for most viewers, but the stars hold it together pretty well, their performances honed in a theatrical manner. Jack Creley is perfectly smooth as Mr. Julian, polite and pleasant yet rarely lacking a clear hard edge that shows he tends to get what he wants. And Jay Reynolds is an effective foil as David Payne, a modern man and his own man, unswayed by forces around him, wise to any BS and determined to be his own determiner. Playing well off each other they impart a sense of humanity and warmth to what in lesser hands could have been a thoroughly dry and tedious affair. All this said, even their fine efforts can't quite assuage the problem of the film being simply too long for its own good. At around 96 minutes long, with at least one entirely pointless character and various scenes either played too slowly or with an excess of talk, The Reincarnate does take some effort to consume without any breaks, and it generally lacks much in the way of gripping momentum. So even I was a bit bored at times, and I have a pretty considerable tolerance for otherwise rather tedious fare. But I was never too bored, and I was never quite bored in the bad way, that manner when you really know you would be better off hitting the way than flexing your brow trying to keep your eyes open. The Reincarnate kept me wanting to watch it, and at the end I was fairly satisfied. So a thumbs up from me, but definitely an acquired taste kind of a film.