I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard nothing but good things about that Iranian documentary, This Is Not a Film, exposing the problematic state of the nation through the eyes of a banned filmmaker’s iPhone. Well (I apologize in advance)—This Is Not [That] Film—or rather, This Is Not a Movie. And after nearly one hundred painful minutes, that may be the only thing the film and I agree on—albeit for very different reasons.
In short, This Is Not a Movie is Olallo Rubio’s haughty attempt to preach his ‘revolutionary’ opinions on every—and I mean every—weighty topic within reach of his “American Diablo” smoking, “Demon Whiskey” drinking, “Prescription” drug-popping, and “Apocalyptic TV” watching Pete Nelson (Edward Furlong). In his black and white hotel room at the “Apocalypse Resort and Casino” filled with gargoyles and other demonic-like ornaments, Pete is tortured with all of the “deep existential conflict” that comes along with being the oh-so-brilliant white American male that he is.
But if his internal struggles weren’t enough to induce a full coma, it’s a good thing he brought his imaginary pals Hedonist Pete and Rastafarian Pete (both played by Furlong) to contribute to the discussion. Entirely one-dimensional characters, Hedonist Pete somehow brings the banality of the shoulder devil to an entirely new level while Rastafarian Pete answers Boring Pete’s questions with complete transparency as Rubio himself so the film can inch forward to whatever random question of the universe Pete may offer up next.
So it should go without saying that without any real conflict or direction other than Rubio’s own, the film moves at a sloth’s pace as the characters discuss colossal topic after colossal topic transitioned without an ounce of nuance by satirical trailers and infomercials. Packed with as much original thought as they have humor, it is assumed “The Man Master of Propaganda” and “The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre” are the film’s attempts at comic relief but it was hard to know as my only chuckle may have been more of a half-sneeze if anything.
But it’s not the poor attempts at comedy or even the abomination that Edward Furlong was not nominated for a Razzie this year that depresses me so much. Rather, it’s the lack of confidence Rubio has in going completely balls-out in a making such a strikingly terrible film. Between the tens of times the Petes admit the clichés filling the film and the screenwriter’s announcement that he has run into writer’s block at the twenty-five minute mark, the viewer would have been better off knowing nothing about anything and trying to decipher through the nonsense. Perhaps then, This Is Not a Movie would have at least left open the slim chance that there may be a flicker of something worth watching. But no, even from its opening credit sequence, the film quickly flashes through every public domain clip in existence that may evoke some, any emotion from the viewer—nuclear mushroom clouds, troops battling in Vietnam, Marilyn Monroe—as if grasping at a last chance to keep us from hitting the eject button.
At this point, I would like to clarify my own philosophy (of film reviewing, not every topic under the sun) in that I will always vouch for there to be interesting, if not good, elements to be had even in the worst of films. But if I’m being honest, This Is Not a Movie does not live up to this and thus, I agree with Rubio and cannot call it a movie. It is at most a lecture, and a poor one at that as it fails in asking any questions at all before delivering erratic, oversimplified explanations that fall short of even the most stereotypical stoner’s thought process.
Perhaps I can almost say one good thing about it after all, as the picture of the Blu-ray is surprisingly good, though pointless as there is little to look at other than Furlong lighting new cigarettes again and again. The sound quality is below average though again, it matters little as Furlong’s lifeless voiceover makes up over three quarters of the film. The soundtrack itself is (somehow) by Slash, though even the back of the Blu-ray case seems to realize how washed up it may, and does, sound. The disc packs a good amount of special features, the most exciting being Slash’s interview where he’s asked to summarize the film. That’s the one gem I’ll allow you to experience yourself if by some tragedy you have seen every other film in existence or feel like spending a night like I did: immersing yourself in the rage, disbelief, depression and apathy brought about by Olallo Rubio’s wannabe magnum opus.