Surreal World: Go Down Death 

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Go Down Death
Directed by Aaron Schimberg

This melancholically vivacious headscratcher leaps between its separate stories and settings, cutting out of one of its folktale fragments with a sudden crash of thunder or wall-shaking cannonfire. Its characters—poker players in a noh bar, postcoital lovers, a hyphenate child (gardener, gravedigger, land surveyor, poet, schoolboy), soldiers in a foggy wood—don’t act like those in fairy stories, though: mostly they engage in curious philosophical conversation, at least when they’re not singing, death hanging over them all in lyrics (“I’m Too Young to Die”), dialogue and milieu. It’s chatty and musically minded, as well as anxious, jumpy, its flat 16mm black-and-white stock capturing what look like war-ravaged ruins (but are, in fact, sets built in a former factory in Greenpoint): wooden floors creak with every toe-touch, and the furniture groans under every ounce of weight.

Writer-director Schimberg is one of the programmers at the knowledgeably and wackily programmed Spectacle movie theater on the Southside; this film will be its first premiere run of a new narrative feature, and weekend midnight screenings will be shown in specially designed Smell-o-Vision. Presumably, you’ll practically be able to taste what feels like a 19th-century Eastern European village as imagined by Carl Laemmle—the countryside as fantasy, through the eyes of a life-long cityboy. Go Down Death has the dreamy qualities of Guy Maddin’s pre-sound pastiches, its wandering story lost in its own wandering. It feels composed of pieces of REM-sleep visions already forgotten, images mingling with your nightmares and fantasies until it’s difficult to separate its impressions from your own subconscious. “Ghosts haunt me,” several of its characters lament, as though speaking for the audience. “But I’ll haunt no one.”

Opens March 28 at Spectacle

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