A fellow filmmaker told me that Aimy in a Cage occupies a space which only a very small handful of films occupy.
They mentioned Matthew Barney, which was shocking to me. However, I believe that I understand the compliment. When you see the singular, colorful universe, with an abstract voice bordering on incoherent (but on closer look is obsessively tuned).
Basically the comparison to Barney was not a compliment to me necessarily but speaking about the arts, and film world as a whole. It’s a territory so lacking in resources, that being a renegade that brings up their art on this scale, instantly puts you in the ring with the best of the best (or, the maddest of the mad).
As a student of film history, and a casual critic myself, longing to where even the Gen X auteurs seem like Pasolini compared to what's put out today; I can say that there was an urgency to make 'Aimy in a Cage'. The film is incredibly ahead of its time and signals a future of millennial filmmakers in the postmodern mindset, who mesh genre, tones, textures to explore their own personal reality.
Yet outside of the generational context, I would say, and hope it fits with the tradition of the kind of cinema I came up with. A kind of delicious, auteur feast.
DOES IT MAKE ANY SENSE?
There needs to be at least some basis to talk about this film. And postmodernism is the best word to use here. And I get why people despise that, as the modern institutions have brought the arts up to such an abstract level that it has bordered on classism, ie, they have destroyed the ability for laymen to appreciate the arts...
(David Foster Wallace had said postmodern in the arts represented academia's envy and inferiority complex, an attempt to match the evolving complexity quantum physics, the atom bomb etc, in the 20th century.)
So while 'Aimy in a Cage' is postmodern, experimental, and fringe, to me it is postmodern in the way Sponge Bob Squarepants is postmodern. To me it is a softball of the avant-garde... To the audience, well, I have come to see that one inch to the fringe is about the same as one of those raving weird performance art pieces.
Regardless, I would put to it that if we missed the mark, that coveted spot between art meeting commerce, then we only missed by about ten to fifteen percent.
Watching 'Aimy in a Cage' again, I was surprised just how coherent the film actually is; in that it makes complete and succinct sense, but simply does not spoon-feed.
In fact, I would say, it spoon-feeds nothing at all. Even the title cards are fairly whimsical and aloof.
Yet there is a canvas. To present two small examples...
1) Mid way through the film, Aimy is tied up, laying sideways on the floor, and it feels like a ship stuck at sea with no wind. The film grinds to a halt with her just sitting there. We cut wide, and the door! Completely open. Aimy is totally free to escape, but where is she going to go?
Perhaps Aimy wants to stay by that point, to drive Kelly completely mad.
Perhaps Kelly wants Aimy to try to escape, to persuade Steve she's more trouble than she's worth.
(Now what you learn after you make your movie is just how journalistic you need to be. You would need Kelly to literally walk in and say, 'Tsk, tsk, tsk. The door's open, Aimy. Why not make a break for it?' ... 'Because this is so much fun.' <--- but where is the poetry in all that?)
2) My favorite is Steve screaming at the hazmat men as they destroy the (already) trashed flat. He bickers about upholstery like an angry housewife. He is so desperate to prop up the remnants of this charade, this great symbol that is the home, even then just traces of the vapid society, which he would die for.
Throughout the film, Steve is devoted to whatever authority is most convenient, as with his obsession with the doctorate thesis. By the end, all of this logic and science has crushed him, and there is no place left for him to go.
First, he shifts his devotion to Kelly, the mad witch.
Then, in his torturous, twisted state, it is luxury itself; of that decaying apartment, down to its last shreds, already trashed, he clings to its last vestiges.
All that is left for him is to give himself wholly to the dark master of the plague; like some kind of Beetlejuice Renfield.
(I think Michael William Hunter as Steve is a really fine performance. It is a totally wild take on the sitcom trope; that over-eager, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Cartlon-sort. He does it so effortlessly that everyone takes it for granted. Not me.)
3) It is not a straight forward adaptation of the Graphic Novel. It's a work of pure 'cinema' in the sense that it is told through staging, visuals, sound, edit, and performance, as opposed to being another journalistic work produced for the lowest common denominator.
IN THE END
It's a really fun film to watch, which I credit most to my cast, who were constantly making it accessible and work on screen. Journalistic, as I mentioned.
But the soul of the piece is not in its value as entertainment, as the sum of the parts do not back that up. The whole, though... my god.
To unlock it, it all comes back to my art background. I did four years, and my professors despised me. I spent my entire 20s as a painter, illustrator, and writer, developing my creative world-view.
'Aimy in a Cage' is pretty much what my graduate thesis would have been; and if it's so entertaining, meshing highbrow with lowbrow, then consider that to be my greatest rebellion against all those stuffy professors that I fought against.
Yet exposed to it at such an impressionable age, the art-speak is also infused in my DNA, and how I might justify the film to those academics...
It's a study on the millennial detachment, through a barrage of pop-culture, music, and imagery. A character study, depicting the true inner rage that would exist beneath the surface of a Pee-Wee or Edward Scissorhands. It's my own personal autobiographical Antoine Doinel.
- Hooroo Jackson