Wednesday, August 1, 2012
"Sorrow Gets Lonely Without a Little Joy": Jim Akin's After the Triumph of Your Birth (2012)
One of the most ambitious and audacious debut feature-films in recent memory, After the Triumph of Your Birth is an extremely compelling experience quite unlike anything American cinema has seen in some time. Written and directed by musician and photographer Jim Akin, After the Triumph of Your Birth is a fearless debut that recalls such American mavericks as Hal Hartley and European auteur's like Wim Wenders while maintaining an absolutely original feel throughout.
After the Triumph of Your Birth tells the story of Eli Willit, a haunted man who sets out on foot at the beginning of the film on a seven-day journey that will take him from the desert to the ocean. In need of spiritual cleansing, Eli’s walkabout leads him not just to the water, but also through his life’s memories, as we are presented with four separate-story lines dealing with spiritual fragility and the questioning of what constitutes existence and reality.
In his look at the film, Kent Adamson described After the Triumph of Your Birth as “a L.A. road movie on foot” and that perfectly sums up this challenging exploration of crisis and redemption. Guided by a finely crafted cinematic eye and an undeniable literary touch, After the Triumph of Your Birth is the kind of free-form poetic film that American cinema rarely sees anymore. Akin has crafted a challenging and provocative work that questions the ideas of narrative and style in cinema through every dizzying turn. An existential drama with touches of noir and absurdity, not to mention musical numbers, After the Triumph of Your Birth is a breathtaking experience that is both wonderfully perplexing and completely profound.
A truly personal work, After the Triumph of Your Birth finds Akin not only directing and writing but he also shot, photographed, scored, edited and handled the sound. As with any film this uniquely personal, parts of After the Triumph of Your Birth feels almost impenetrable and, at the very least, it is an extremely demanding experience. It’s like an elaborate puzzle box with a beating human heart in the middle. Far from being just another artsy indie film made robotic by a lack of passion, After the Triumph of Your Birth is a strikingly human work that manages to be both intellectually stimulating as well as emotionally rewarding.
While Akin’s presence behind the camera controls After the Triumph of Your Birth his film is blessed with an extraordinary cast, which includes a handful making their debuts in front of the camera. Alongside a powerful Tom Dunne, as the haunted figure Eli, we have the granddaughter of Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney, Tessa Ferrer making her feature-length film debut in a beautifully touching performance that is wonderfully subtle and strikingly musical. Seasoned actor and former Possum Dixon member Rob Zabrecky turns in a chilling performance as the ghostly ‘answer’ man and young Dean Ogle gives a touching performance as Jack, a ‘boy who has seen things no boy should see.’ Special mention must also go to burlesque artist Kristina Nekyia, who gives the film its most electrifying jolts in her few scenes. The lovely Nekyia devours the camera in her moments on screen and projects an unforgettable intensity.
The most notable person in the cast is legendary singer and songwriter Maria McKee, Akins major collaborator behind the scenes of the film. My own journey to After the Triumph of Your Birth begins with my discovery of McKee when I was a teenager in the eighties. Among a small group of artists I would call a personal hero, McKee’s inspiring musical career has been marked by a spellbinding fearlessness and I am not at all surprised that she has found her way into film, as her music is among the most cinematic ever recorded. McKee produced After the Triumph of Your Birth, co-wrote the score with Akin, sings on the wonderful soundtrack and has a small but devastating part in the film as music-teacher Millicent. McKee seems completely at home on the screen and she radiates the same kind of energy and urgency that can be heard on all of her recordings.
After the Triumph of Your Birth will have a sneak preview at the Cinefamily on Sunday, August the 5th and will then have its official premiere on the 13th at Santa Monica’s Aero Theater. Both screenings will be followed by a performance by the ferocious McKee (whose live work is the stuff of legend). The film’s soundtrack can be ordered at the official website on the 5th as well. More information on the film, and how you can see it, can be found over at that official site and it's Facebook page. A recent interview with Maria on the film can be read here as well.
After the Triumph of Your Birth is a remarkable work…gutsy, unnerving, lyrical and finally unbelievably moving. While Jim Akin’s film has brushstroke’s reminiscent of such masterful works like Wenders’ Paris, Texas and Hartley’s Henry Fool, After the Triumph of Your Birth is dazzling in just how original it is…it’s a beautiful new creation in the rubbles of a dull recycled culture.
-Jeremy Richey, 2012-