×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Instrument

The Instrument" is a slyly ambitious if only slightly realized post-modern play on college documentary filmmaking. Hatched by writer-producer-director Adam Nemett under the auspices of Princeton U., result is a multi-disciplinary effort by Nemett and his father Barry at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Pic is framed as a docu on music students who must live and create together for a month per the will of a Harry Partch-like music maker. Pure fest fodder, this slice of semi-underground post-grad imagination will perk up the college pic circuit.

With:
With: Hilton Carter, David Hittson, Heather Iandoli, Ajay Kapur, Jamie Klassel, Jose Maertz, Taryn Wayne, Richard Kalter, Barry Nemett.

The Instrument” is a slyly ambitious if only slightly realized post-modern play on college documentary filmmaking. Hatched by writer-producer-director Adam Nemett under the auspices of Princeton U., result is a multi-disciplinary effort by Nemett and his father Barry at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Pic is framed as a docu on music students who must live and create together for a month per the will of a Harry Partch-like music maker. Pure fest fodder, this slice of semi-underground post-grad imagination will perk up the college pic circuit.

Student filmmaker Pallo Zo (Hilton Carter) starts a documentary on the life and ideas of Arthur Zarek (played by the Maryland college’s late philosopher-in-residence, Richard Kalter), a custodian at Pallo’s art school and creator of music instruments designed to tap into spirituality. Zarek, who is clearly modeled on such unclassifiable American masters as John Cage, Partch and Morton Subotnick, makes an offer that can’t be refused upon his death: His will states his multi-million dollar estate will be inherited by all the students who attend his memorial service –but only if they stay in the property as a group for a month.

Putting aside the unlikelihood that a custodian could own such a valuable piece of real estate, or that the studio seen on screen (decked out with acoustic, string and electronic devices of every shape and size) hardly looks like such a pricey property, premise carries all the earmarks of the kind of psycho-horror fodder that’s the specialty of Bob Weinstein’s Dimension label — or of Roger Corman back in the day. “The Instrument,” though, surprises most for eschewing any genre tack whatsoever.

It also disposes with most of the overused “Blair Witch” docu-within-fiction strategy, even though things do get a tad hysterical. The student group, most with music training, seem to take to the studio live-in happening although it is strictly private and even a little like prison.

Zarek’s ideas about “consonance” and such things as “outflowing hunting rituals” are just too nutty to take seriously, but the students concoct a series of music-based rites that become increasingly compelling to watch, even when the group gets twitchy with cabin fever.

Nemett covers the action with trippy wide-angle lensing and with more cameras than Pallo could possibly have for his film-within-film. Additionally, pic never makes sense of the insertion of Pallo’s personal memories and dramas. Cast, looking like it’s having a load of collegiate fun, never breaks the illusion of a docu.

Behind the scenes, pic received advice and research from novelist Joyce Carol Oates and scholar Cornel West, who makes a half-cracked cameo that’s slightly shorter than his turns in the last two “Matrix” entries.

The Instrument

Production: A Magister Prods. presentation in association with Princeton U. and Maryland Institute College of Art. Produced, directed, written by Adam Nemett.

Crew: Camera (color, Super 16mm/DV), Frankie Tze Wei Ng, Chris Freilich; editor, Macauley Peterson; music, David Hittson, Ajay Kapur; music supervisors, Hittson, Clemens Morgenroth; production designer, Barry Nemett; art director, James Gillespie; set decorator, Jennifer Brea; costume designers, Brea, Penelope Tang; sound, Evan Naides; sound designer, Bob Kirschner; supervising sound editors, Peterson, Dominic Bartolini; visual effects, Freilich, Peterson; animation, John McGill; choreographer, Taryn Wayne; line producers, Brittany Blockman, Hittson, Kadi Hughes; assistant directors, Dan Wachtell, Naides. Reviewed on videotape, Los Angeles, May 16, 2005. (In Dances With Films.) Running time: 101 MIN.

With: With: Hilton Carter, David Hittson, Heather Iandoli, Ajay Kapur, Jamie Klassel, Jose Maertz, Taryn Wayne, Richard Kalter, Barry Nemett.

More Film

  • Backtrace Review

    Film Review: 'Backtrace'

    “You can’t kill me! I died seven years ago!” It’s very much to the credit of Matthew Modine that he persuasively sells this melodramatic scrap of dialogue, and every other aspect of his trickily written lead character, in “Backtrace,” a better-than-average VOD-centric thriller that likely wouldn’t work nearly so well without the veteran actor’s totally [...]

  • Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    Film News Roundup: 'Lawnmower Man' Director Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Elijah” gets a director, a French fry documentary starts shooting and “Uglydolls” moves its release date forward. PROJECT LAUNCH More Reviews Film Review: 'Backtrace' Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Brett Leonard, best known for directing ”The Lawnmower Man” and “Virtuosity,” will direct the supernatural feature film “Elijah,” based on [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Commercial Negotiations Set for February

    With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a mid-February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract, Variety has learned. The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ad industry [...]

  • SONDRA LOCKESONDRA LOCKE - 1986

    Oscar Nominee Sondra Locke Dies at 74

    Actress and director Sondra Locke, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination in her first movie role for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” died Nov. 3 at 74. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department confirmed her death. She died due to breast and bone cancer, according to Radar Online, which reported that she [...]

  • Clint Eastwood and Alison Eastwood'The Mule'

    Clint Eastwood: Why Alison Eastwood Came Out of Acting Retirement for Her Dad

    Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison Eastwood was done with acting after appearing in 2014’s “Finding Harmony.” Or so she thought. More Reviews Film Review: 'Backtrace' Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' It was a Friday night and she and her husband were heading to dinner when her father’s producer Sam Moore called. “He [says], ‘You know, [...]

  • 'Dead Women Walking' Review: Uncompromising, Powerful

    Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking'

    The sober and gripping “Dead Women Walking” focuses on the final days of a series of female inmates facing the death sentence. Divided into nine chapters, each inching its way inexorably closer to the moment of execution, the drama turns the fragmentation of its approach to a powerful advantage. Not only do the individual stories [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes' World War I Drama '1917' Set for Awards-Season Launch on Christmas 2019

    Universal Pictures has given an awards-season release date of Dec. 25, 2019, to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1971.” Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners is producing “1917” through its DreamWorks Pictures brand. “1917” will open in limited release on Christmas Day then go wide two weeks later on Jan. 10, 2020. More Reviews Film Review: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content