For a first feature, director Jeremy Alter's "The Perfect Sleep" is admirably ambitious, an attempt to sculpt an otherworldly, postmodern noir out of gauzy tableaux vivants and fever-dream imagery. Unfortunately, Alter's often inventive work is kneecapped by a deliriously nonsensical script, which misses the mark as both over-the-top parody and straight-faced homage, and could have been intended as either.

For a first feature, director Jeremy Alter’s “The Perfect Sleep” is admirably ambitious, an attempt to sculpt an otherworldly, postmodern noir out of gauzy tableaux vivants and fever-dream imagery. Unfortunately, Alter’s often inventive work is kneecapped by a deliriously nonsensical script, which misses the mark as both over-the-top parody and straight-faced homage, and could have been intended as either. Limited L.A. run begins March 13, though it’s tough to imagine what audiences will make of such a dense, bizarre exercise in genre mimicry.

Film concerns an unnamed man (Anton Pardoe, who also scripted), perpetually bloodied and prone to prosaic narration, returning to an unnamed city (Los Angeles) to reconnect with lost love Porphyria (Roselyn Sanchez). Flashbacks detail their childhood at the center of murderous intrigue involving Russian mobsters and Indian crime lords, all of whom come back into play in the present day. Impressive production design and music (from the Damned’s Dave Vanian) give the film a stylish sheen, but as the narrative plods through increasingly dull convolutions and poor approximations of hardboiled dialogue, the overall effect is that of an elongated student film careening slowly, deliberately out of control.

The Perfect Sleep

Production

A Cinema Epoch release of a United Pictures production. Produced by Jeremy Alter, Keith Kjarval, Anton Pardoe. Executive producer, Jay Sedrish. Co-producer, Kurt Rauer. Directed by Jeremy Alter. Screenplay, Anton Pardoe.

Crew

Camera (color), Charles Papert; editor, Martin Hunter; music, Dave Vanian; production designer, Clayton Hartley; costume designer, Kristen Anacker. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, March 10, 2009. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Anton Pardoe, Roselyn Sanchez, Patrick Bauchau, Peter J. Lucas, Tony Amendola, Sam Thakur, Dominique Vandenberg, Cameron Daddo, Michael Pare.

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