States of Control

"Excellent"

States of Control Review


Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura might have a hell of a time being released in theaters today. His trilogy of films starring the beautiful actress Monica Vitti (expanded into a quartet if you include Red Desert) contemplate the experience of a bored, frustrated woman in a heavily industrialized society ruled by false ideals of consumerism and power. The end of the world was not an apocalyptic fire, but a deadening malaise waking up in the dawn of the dead. There's no exit, whittling away the days with the distraction of fast food and shopping malls.

In 1960, L'Avventura was a box office smash despite its harsh critical reception at Cannes, where frustrated critics misunderstood its open-ended message for pure emptiness. What they lacked the ability to see was that very emptiness becoming the core message. This can also be said for Zack Winestine's challenging new film, States of Control, which picks up right where Antonioni left off. The times have changed, and this heroine, Lisa (brilliantly played by Jennifer van Dyck, Series 7) is not content to live a life of passive alienatation. She's gonna blow her superficial life apart and create something authentic and new, no matter what the cost.

Lisa has fallen into routines, measuring out her days in teaspoons. A self-proclaimed failed novelist, she's stuck in a sheltered Manhattan life coordinating mundane secretarial chores at an Off-Off-Broadway Theater. Her husband Abel (Stephen Bogardus, Love! Valour! Compassion!) is an impotent bore who fails to challenge her sexually or intellectually. This is most notably felt in a funny-sad scene when he attempts to tell an amusing anecdote about the "Great Chinese Trombonists." The gag falls flat, not achieving the desired response. The more they try to hold on to each other, the closer they come to drowning.

Things quickly liven up. Inspired by the anarchic musings of a jaded theatre director (John Cunningham), Lisa performs a series of experiments, some comical and others disturbing, to break through the web of artificiality. Her training consists of sleep deprivation, sexual deviance, sampling pornography, smashing open a locked door with her bare fist, and determining how long she can hold her finger in an open light socket. By pushing her body to the limit, she hopes to achieve the ultimate transformation, whatever that is.

The coda of States of Control places Lisa on her own as the extraneous parts of her life fade away, including her principles, her friends, even her language. Played entirely without dialogue, the climax is a razor-edged adventure as Lisa embarks upon the final, explosive stage of her growth. Comparisons to the Unabomber abound, but Lisa's philosophy comes closer to David Cronenberg's unsettling Videodrome mantra, "Long live the New Flesh."

There's something borderline fascistic about Lisa's regime, made latent in the fiercely dramatic sturm und drang of Richard Termini's classical score, or the beautiful and startling images of clouds parting in the sky. Those mystical images of nature bring to mind Triumph of the Will director Leni Reifenstahl, visually referenced throughout States of Control. Susan Starr's austere cinematography (in collaboration with Winestine, an experienced director of photography himself) produces an appropriately clinical God's Eye View, in the hollow valleys of New York City skyscrapers or the cramped apartment space Lisa shares with Abel. Discomfort is the order of the day.

Anchored by a strong central performance by van Dyck, States of Control is a hard, mercurial polemic that gets under the skin. Winestine's politically charged agenda sometimes gets the best of him in scenes that seem more conceptual than dramatic. Despite the occasionally academic tone, there's no denying that Lisa's extremities cast an eerie spell.

Zack Winestine's formidable States of Control will not be for everyone, but those who rise to the challenge can prepare themselves for a movie rich with ideas in today's increasingly conservative marketplace. There's also a bleak humor in the lengths to which Lisa goes to achieve her vision -- I mean, who wouldn't laugh at the notion of blowing shit up and spending the rest of your life living in a cave? Yeah, it's all funny games until the rationality kicks in: something just broke.

If you need any help, just ask.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 84 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 6th April 1997

Distributed by: Vanguard

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 5.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Lisa, as Abel, as Paul, the director, as Carol

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.