Slow Machine (2020)

Slow Machine
Director: Joe Denardo, Paul Felten
Writer: Paul Felten
Cast: Stephanie Hayes, Scott Shepherd, Chloë Sevigny, Eleanor Friedberger, Catherine Cohen, Emily Tremaine
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2020

Stephanie (Stephanie Hayes) is a struggling actor in New York. By chance she meets Gerard (Scott Shepherd) who tells her that he is in a covert program, a secret agent. They start a relationship, but things don’t go too well. Looking back at the relationship from a friend’s house where Stephanie tries to get some peace, but things don’t necessarily become any clearer.

Slow Machine was too slow for me (pun intended, but so bad, it’s barely a pun, I know), and too unfocused, never seeming to go anywhere. For some, this might be its appeal, for me it felt mostly empty.

The film poster showing Stephanie (Stephanie Hayes) in a close up, with various stills arranged as if on physical film around her face.

According to the film description by the Viennale, you never know in the film when Stephanie is playing a role and when she is being herself, if she is at all. I thought that sounded like an intriguing premise. I only didn’t find it in the film myself. That’s not saying it isn’t there, it just underscores how vague the film really is.

It’s a film that is heavy on the dialogues and that seems to be very proud of these dialogues. I am not sure whether that pride is justified, but I know that I found it rather exhausting the more time passes. Fortunately the film is pretty short.

Stephanie (Stephanie Hayes) looking straight at the camera.

Stephanie Hayes was good and intriguing enough to carry the film anyway. And I really enjoyed the cinematography. Shot on 16mm, the film has a very grainy look that I felt was very in tune with its general mood and was maybe the most enjoyable part about the film. (That and Sevigny’s short appearance that seemed to come in a from a different film, but was still interesting.)

Overall though I didn’t know what to do with Slow Machine. And more importantly, I got the distinct impression that Slow Machine didn’t know what to do with itself. And if the film doesn’t know, how should the audience?

Stephanie (Stephanie Hayes) talking to Chloë (Chloë Sevigny) in a cafe, with a fan standing close-by.

Summarizing: shrug.

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