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Saturday, March 21, 2009

THE DEATH OF ALICE BLUE

By D.E.Levine

American Premiere: Museum of Modern Art, March 20, 2009
New York City
Director: Park Bench
Screenplay: Park Bench
Producer: Alex Appel
Cast: Alex Appel, Park Bench, Kristen Holden-Reid, Barbara Radecki, Megan Fahlenbock,
Vernonica Hurnick, Conrad Coates, Carolyn Dunn, Gordon Currie
Awards: 2008 Accolade Awards of Merit (Feature Film and Direction)
Language: English
Country: Canada
Running Time: 87 minutes
Genre: Satire, Parody, Drama

This is the sixth year that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City has had a Canadian Front bring independent Canadian films to their auditorium for American audiences.

Raven Advertising is a rat invested, run down agency with dirty walls and a group of snobbish, elitist employees. Alice Blue starts her week on Monday as a pallid, meek, introverted creative intern. She is physically present at the agency but doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the staff. Alice lives at home with her pushy mother whose dominant personality appears to subjugate Alice so much that she is too meek at home to speak up regarding her own dreams and desires but daydreams about being successful at work.

Alice is assigned to the agency's handsome creative director to work on the Nether Wines campaign. Her work on her presentation is interspersed with romantic daydreams about the same director. Alice has hopes of impressing him with her ideas and presentation. But Raven is a strange environment. While one rebel employee (Peter Green) claims that "fifth dimension lizards" have tampered with the mind of an employee (Annie) who lives behind the walls of the copy room, he attempts to recruit Alice against the bosses he considers sinister.

Although many of the female employees mock Alice and laugh in her face, the dreamy creative director leads her on, never mentioning that Raven is run by a cabal of vampires. Over the course of a week the audience sees the eerie meetings for the Nether Wines campaign, the blood red liquid of the wine itself, the unusual cold storage unit in the basement, the bodies that are stored in the basement, murders that are left to the imagination, and the slow revelation of blood relationships between Alice, her mother and members of the company.

Viewers soon see that the ad campaign for Nether Wines is to draw attention to the nether regions while a vampire sucks a victim dry and suggests they go out to lunch the same week. The tongue-in-cheek script and presentation by the actors adds to the satirical quality that is necessary for the film since the plot is neither original nor new.

In the space of just five days we see Alice undergo a transformation from pale, demure and frumpy to pink cheeked, Gothic looking, grunge dressing and sexy. A presentation to the Nether Wine clients is hysterically funny and simultaneously appalling as the vampires use the tools of professional business to attack and kill (a commentary on how work can kill?). Tacks are hurled at bodies, laptops are used as shields, pens get stuck through eyeballs, metal pointers impale chests, security cameras squash heads and other heads are decapitated.

Throughout it all the client remains impassive and signs the contract with Raven, obviously unaffected by the gore and bloodshed. Also exposed are the secrets in Alice's own life, her father's role in Raven, her own blood heritage and her discovery of the hundreds of years of eternal life that her dreamy creative director and other executives have enjoyed via their vampire bloodsucking ways.

As an independent film, their are no expensive special effects in this film. With a modest budget and very few tricks, a few effects are tried and are semi-effective. Alice ultimately must choose between good and evil, between renunciation of her heritage and history or acceptance of her fate as proscribed by her family bloodlines and ties. Her decision may be disappointing to some viewers who were lulled into believing her future lay elsewhere by her appearance and actions only a few days earlier.