A back-yard aesthetic is employed to explore the effects of organ harvesting in this Sci-fi story set in modern times. Without a discernable protagonist, the camera acts like our only consistent character; a nameless and uniformed interloper gesturing towards actions we never see and can only piece together afterwards. Emphasis is placed on the quiet and disturbing spaces between the life threatening and unexplained events occurring off screen. This one should be a darling on the fest circuit and prove a worthy calling card for sophomore helmer Alejandro Adams. With some attention, this could instigate a new mini-movement, but without a distributor and tube plans strong numbers are hard to forecast.
The film plays with the idea that globalization will progress to produce a corporation that harvests its products from humans; evolution (on all levels) is staggeringly relevant but never explicitly Cronenbergian. Adams inserts sociological commentary on the logistical rationale behind the world of the film: we see callous advertising executives brainstorming ways to take the sting out of impromtu organ “donation,” news reporters trying to unearth the story from a clearly damaged organ harvester and feckless middlebrow office employees thoughtlessly “consulting” children on their financial responsibility to care for their borrowed parts (“or we’ll have to take them back!”). Those from which the organs are taken are largely foreign. The scene in which we see the first organ harvest is as breathtakingly terse as it is alien. Without the benefit of subtitles, we hear a family having a slightly heated discussion in a Slavic language. A young man practices piano while his sisters read magazines in an adjacent room and his father slightly berates him. Meanwhile, the harvester lurks unnoticed in the hallway. She says not a word the whole film and always wears a bright white jumpsuit—yet she seems invisible to those around her. She is the ghost in the machine. When she comes around the corner, now with a gas mask, she sprays an aerosol can in the room and all the bodies drop. Next we see her in the back of a van spreading mysterious green goo on the piano players stomach. As he’s a well-built piano player, this is as close as the film gets to titillation. (The rest of the suspense is sans T&A.)
Ultimately, Canary is a loosely plotted suspense film whose apparent disinterest in creating tension produces its own disturbingly acute brand of anxiety—it’s quite an evolution. Adams’ first film, Around the Bay, is a micro-indie about a wayward father and his unmaintained relationship with his daughter. Around felt similarly unmoored, but Canary ’s premise reveals more overt planning than Adam’s first. Adams’ camerawork, which constantly skates over the surface of information, treats each crucial detail as casually as something only slightly relevant to the story: in this world, literally nothing is sacred. If you were to project the emotional lethargy and hummingbird heartbeat attention span of Slacker onto J.J. Abrams TV drama Lost you’d be getting close to Canary. The genius of Adam’s directorial practice is the way it forces the audience to participate and assume a form of complicity in this deranged alternate universe. We become complicit in the form of intellectual commerce each of the film’s characters intermittently obsesses over. As the characters ask each other we ask along: “How would we market mass organ harvesting?” (All agree it’s fine so long as it doesn’t happen to you or anyone you care about.) And here, the loosely woven story finds its aesthetic root. As the camera floats from stranger to stranger, each of them unknowingly in threat of losing needful parts, the camera never trains on one long enough to make the story human. It’s the audience who struggles to make these characters human—and all while they’re all doing terribly inhuman things. It becomes quite a quandary.
It’s truly seldom you see an aesthetic, particularly one as overused as the handheld video-cam, employed so judiciously and with such artless efficiency. It’s not hyperbolic to suggest the direction could influence or be part of a new trend in filmmaking. The space of time that allowed for happily accidental home movies about what’s going on next-door narrows daily and something new needs to force itself into a space. Make no mistake: this camera is a weapon.
Cast: Carla Pauli, Sarah Eismann, Jennifer Latch and Ailsa Adams
Director: Alejandro Adams
Screenwriters: Alejandro Adams, Michael Samuelson and Sammy Samuelson
Producers: Alejandro Adams, Marja Adams, Amanda Davis and Marja Murphy
Running time: 93 min
Release date: Unset