David Polonoff, DOWNTOWN, April 1986
EXPERIENCED MOVERS TAKES UP THE GAUNTLET
"Experienced Movers plods like a psychotic derelict against the facade of our glib New Bohemia. The story of the robbery of an art museum in Boraxville, a grimy lower middle-class city somewhere in the post industrial Northeast, it's two-and-a-halh hours savor the interpersonal seamyness of a world of petty thugs and downwardly mobile youth. Sidney Ling, dropout and borderline schizophrenic, spurned by his yuppie girlfriend, tries to solicit the good graces of Jack Sandler, her closet con father. Instead, he is enlisted as fall guy in the perfect heist plotted by Sandler and his gloating partners.
At first the action proceeds as if taped by surveillance cameras in the fourth wall. Snippets of conversation, stray glances, overheard conspiracies combine to form the picture of crime in the making. By the story's frenzied conclusion, the camera has become a person in its own right, a lurking psychopath ready to throw itself into the fray. Director Larry Fessenden has left no trick unturned to transform the low contrast cool of video into a medium capable of narrative complexity.
Alternating tripod smoothness with the jerky immediacy of hand-held camera, he allows the plot to unravel at a desceptive distance only to tangle us in the onrush of events. At times the results are as contrived as any student art film, at others--like the crime sequence shot in the slow motioned breathlessness of Super 8--among the most thrilling to have graced a picture tube.
Originally a play by neo-Brechtian dramatist Evan McHale, X-Movers achieved its alienation effects onstage by placing crime movie conventions (car chases, shootout, break-ins - in a theatrical setting. The video remains faithful to the text while successfully translating it s context. Thus we are dealing with the video of a play of an imagined movie. Retaining the linguistic density of the original in the midst of the frenetic editing, characters converse in gansterese, soap operatics, psycho-babble, mixed metaphor and blank verse. Bullet-riddle hoodlums soliloquize their demise as if playing a Shakespearean death scene. Meanwhile, the dubbed sound track offers running sarcasm by way of cartoonish intrusions and allusions to everything from classical opera to Muzak.
Video is often said to be the quintessential non-narrative medium. Its finest offerings, commercials and rock vignettes, reinforce the impression that television at its most expressive speaks a language of simultaneous images on a seamless surface. But is this a fact of the medium or of the imagination of its practicioners? What are now taken as narrative limits may in fact be the new means by which storytelling can unfold. In its ambitious bid to reinstate the values of narrativity, X-Movers lays down the gauntlet. Overlong, lumbering, histrionic ...but, at its best, you have never seen scenes like these coming off your TV set. Anyone concerned with the construction of meaning in a world choking on a vomit or regurgitated images should see this curiously flawed work of art."