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Primer (March 25/05)

It's easy enough to see what writer/director Shane Carruth is attempting with Primer. With its almost complete lack of expository dialogue and barely developed characters, Carruth is clearly going for a vibe of realism within the context of a science fiction film. On that level, Primer is undoubtedly a success. It really does feel as though we've been dropped into a very specific period in the lives of these people; imagine a documentary minus the narration explaining just what's going on, and you've got Primer.

The basic premise of the movie involves two computer geeks - Abe (David Sullivan) and Aaron (Carruth) - who are working on a device that, when eventually finished, has world-changing ramifications. The first half hour or so of Primer seems to consist entirely of Robert Altman-esque sequences in which these guys work on the project, while spouting all this complicated dialogue has absolutely no meaning for us.

And though it's a complete cliché, the film really could've used one of those scenes in which either Abe or Aaron sits down an outsider and explains the whole thing to them (and to us, by association). Without such a sequence, Primer remains baffling virtually from start to finish - which is a shame, really, given that this does seem to be a really cool premise for a movie (it seems to be, anyway).

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Video presents Primer with a letterboxed transfer, along with a fascinating audio commentary from Carruth. Though his efforts to explain the film sailed right over my head, the track is filled with interesting tidbits about the production (including a lot of information about how one goes about making a film for less than $10,000). The disc also includes a second commentary track, featuring Carruth, Sullivan, Anand Upadhyaya, Reggie Evans, Daniel Bueche and Chip Carruth, along with a copy of the film's trailer.
© David Nusair