Deformed, abused boy sprouts wings

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Filmmaking is widely considered one of the most gruelling, technically demanding, and expensive endeavors in the arts. The arrival of Tucson filmmakers and UA alumni Robert Loomis' and Douglas Harms' new film, "Catastroph," gives testimony to their cinematic dedication. It also recommends Tucson as a viable alternative for independent film production.

"Catastroph" details, in lyrical progression, the story of Michael Thure, a child born with a humpbacked deformity under a physically abusive father. At school he is rejected by his peers, so he retreats to his room at night to study the celestial hemisphere out his window.

One day, Michael's deformity painfully sprouts wings and he realizes he is, in fact, the son of a fallen angel. The rest of the movie deals with his decision to join either of the two angels representing good and evil who vie for his soul.

Because "Catastroph" is an allegory, it unfortunately presents special problems to the filmmakers. Allegories are difficult to present, as there is a temptation to skimp on dramatic effectiveness within the story's world, and stress its symbolic relevance towards its audience. The more purely symbolic the film is, the more cerebral its concerns are, and the less emotion ally involving it can be.

"Catastroph" is carefully wrought, but it is easy to feel the filmmakers see more substance in the film than a thematically uninitiated viewer would. Perhaps part of their approach is to hint at a larger canvas, but many of the film's events seem too detached or enigmatic.

However, on a technical level, the film is consistently interesting. Almost every shot in the movie is a moving tracking shot, and while the effect borders on excessiveness, it gives the film a unique feeling of being separate from the physicality of its setting. There is a definite sense of otherworldliness that fits the film's spiritual concerns.

The film also uses its desert locations effectively, turning barren vistas into cloud-enshrouded arenas of spiritual confrontation.

There are also a variety of airborne shots that subjectively depict flight, and the final confrontation between Michael and his spiritual mentors is kinetic and exciting.

What "Catastroph" may lack in narrative effectiveness, it makes up for in imaginative technique. As a complete feature-length film, "Catastroph," stands as a serious marker in the rising filmmakers' careers. It should also be an encouragement to other filmmakers and students who question the task of completing an independent film in the Tucson area.

"Catastroph" has returned to the The Screening Room for three days only, Sept. 23-25. Call 628-1737 for show times.

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