×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SXSW Film Review: ‘Perfect’

Skin-slicing, blood cubes, and murderous models. It's all there in this ambitious, repellent sci-fi that doesn't care if it lives up to the title.

Director:
Eddie Alcazar
With:
Garrett Wareing, Courtney Eaton, Tao Okamoto, Maurice Compte, Abbie Cornish, Martin Sensmeier, Sarah McDaniel, Chris Santos, Leonardo Nam, Regan 'Busdriver' Farquhar.

1 hour 25 minutes.

Garrett Wareing’s nameless teenager is a sinner. Big time. Eddie Alcazar’s “Perfect” opens after he’s murdered a naked girl. Who she is and how it happened doesn’t figure into the plot. Wareing’s character, referred to in the credits as Vessel 13, doesn’t even seem to know. He and his emotionally distant mother (Abbie Cornish) just want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, not so much out of a concern for his victims but just a vague vanity that his inner self be as radiant as his model good looks. (Alcazar takes care to shoot Wareing’s high cheekbones and bee-stung lips like every frame could do double duty hawking Gucci.) And so the boy is shipped off to a forested clinic to become flawless through a procedure where he cuts out cubes of his own flesh with a box cutter and replaces them with clear silicone. Yes, there’s blood. But he’s too numb to feel pain.

Clearly, “Perfect” exists in the world of skin-deep allegory, and frankly, it’s a challenge to get beneath the surface. Matthias Koenigswieser’s camera has the hard, lush look of high-fashion photography. The clinic is encircled by Eden-esque woods, a waterfall, and a skyscraper-tall sculpture that looks like a granite Pez dispenser. Staring at the supine beauties littered across the modernist furniture feels like attempting to conjure a plot from a Helmut Newton photograph. There lies a glamazon glaring just left of the camera with cryptic menace.

What it means, Alcazar leaves open for interpretation. He’s more a mood maker than a story teller, and the film feels like people watching at a fancy party and inhaling different wafts of perfume. As the boy kills time doing slow-motion yoga, “Perfect’s” handsome production design starts to feel oppressively unsettling. We’re struck by an overwhelming sense of need and disappointment, plus a jab at modern consumers’ obsession with purification, which seems to be teetering toward 18th-century snake oil science. One level deeper, there’s a sense that the boy’s failures reflect on his parents — or really, his Creator, as the swirling galactic imagery during the opening credits evokes the book of Genesis. Meanwhile, the narrator speechifies about keeping the universe in balance, one of the theological arguments for unleashing Satan.

Popular on Variety

The boy seems to be hoping to extract the primal anger inside so-called civilized man. His doctors have made him slice off so many squares of his flesh that by the end, he’s completely cross-hatched with laser beams skittering across his shaved skin. How much of himself can he shear and swap before he’s no longer himself? But still, when the boy closes his eyes, he imagines himself as a mud-coated savage attacking women like fellow guest Sarah (Courtney Eaton), who spends the running time lounging around in sexy swimwear and see-through gowns solemnly intoning about her higher state of evolution, or just as often, not saying anything at all.

Alcazar shoots these scenes in a black-and-white that’s so crisp you can see each dried flake of dirt. Later, he zooms in repulsively close to Wareing smearing his face with a moldy peach, and near the climax includes a scene of cannibalism that’s not for the weak.

Alcazar and his frequent artistic collaborator Flying Lotus, who composed and executive-produced “Perfect,” make a, well, perfect team. (They traded production roles when Flying Lotus directed “Kuso.”) Both are fixated on body horror, vanity, breaking good-taste boundaries, and blurring the lines between feature film, music video, and art installation. Together, they’re inventing a grotesque niche that most people — this critic included — might find pretentious. “Is perfection something the world needs?” asks Cornish. Alcazar is fine if most audiences say no, as long as at least one keyed-in weirdo says yes.

SXSW Film Review: 'Perfect'

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Visions), March 11, 2018. 85 MIN.

Production: A Brainfeeder Films presentation. Producers: Eddie Alcazar, Javier Lovato. Executive producers: Steven Soderbergh, Flying Lotus, Marco Vicini, Phil Hoelting, Matthias Koenigswieser, Adam Silvestri, Rooter Wareing, Nikki Pederson.

Crew: Director: Eddie Alcazar. Writers: Ted Kupper. Camera (color): Matthias Koenigswieser. Editor: Gardner Gould. Music: Flying Lotus.

With: Garrett Wareing, Courtney Eaton, Tao Okamoto, Maurice Compte, Abbie Cornish, Martin Sensmeier, Sarah McDaniel, Chris Santos, Leonardo Nam, Regan 'Busdriver' Farquhar.

More Film

  • Channing Tatum Roy Lee

    Film News Roundup: Channing Tatum, Roy Lee to Produce 'The Maxx'

    In today’s film news roundup, Channing Tatum and Roy Lee are developing “The Maxx,” Leslie Uggams has joined “The Ravine” and Safehouse Pictures is expanding. PROJECT LAUNCH Channing Tatum and Roy Lee are teaming up to produce a movie or television show based on the Image Comics series “The Maxx.” Popular on Variety Tatum will [...]

  • Jason Derulo

    Jason Derulo Celebrates Music Career Milestone, Reveals Action Movie Ambition

    Warner Records celebrated one of its own on Thursday night (Nov. 21), presenting Jason Derulo with a plaque commemorating 190 million overall sales worldwide. The event at the Argyle in Los Angeles came on the heels of his latest release, the EP “2 Sides” (Side 1)” and also marked other milestones. Variety caught up with [...]

  • JKR_DAY030_102518_0688465.dng

    How the Crafts of 'Joker' Tell Arthur Fleck’s Story

    The phenomenon that is “Joker” continues to break records, as Oscar buzz grows for Joaquin Phoenix and several other categories. It is a film filled with visual and sonic clues to help tell the story of his emotional journey – wherever it takes him. From the squeaking of the apartment door to the single cello [...]

  • John Turturro The Batman

    'The Batman': John Turturro to Play Carmine Falcone in New Film

    John Turturro is set to join the cast of Matt Reeves and Warner Bros.’ “The Batman” starring Robert Pattinson. Reeves announced on Twitter that Turturro would be playing Carmine Falcone, the Gotham City gangster and adversary to the Caped Crusader. He joins a cast that includes Zoe Kravitz, who will play Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, [...]

  • Dutch art dealer Jan Six and

    IDFA: Oeke Hoogendijk's 'My Rembrandt' Debuts Trailer Before World Premiere (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer to “My Rembrandt,” directed by Oeke Hoogendijk, which has its world premiere on Sunday in the Masters section of the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The film is set in the world of the art market for paintings by the Dutch Old Master. While art collectors [...]

  • Martin Scorsese'The Irishman' film premiere, Arrivals,

    Martin Scorsese Honored by Palm Springs Film Festival for 'The Irishman'

    Martin Scorsese has been selected by the Palm Springs International Film Festival as the recipient of its Sonny Bono Visionary Award for “The Irishman.” He will be presented the award at the festival’s gala on Jan. 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The festival runs Jan. 2-13. “Martin Scorsese has directed another masterpiece about [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content