2.5 Stars
Year Released: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 92 minutes
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“The Mind is a Liar and a Whore,” the latest feature from the gifted Berkeley-based filmmaker Antero Alli, takes place in an unnamed California city on a Christmas in the near future. The city is under attack when unknown forces begin to rain anthrax-filled shells carried by red balloons. The federal authorities declare a 48-hour lockdown of the entire area and people are forbidden to leave their homes.

The film is set in a boarding house populated by a diverse group of kooks: a self-styled star of a conspiracy theory webcam show, an astrologer who is convinced the stellar configurations predicted the attack, a satanist who conducts melodramatic prayers in the secrecy of his bedroom, and an Inuit opera singer who is entertaining a loopy pilot. The patriarch and landlord of the setting is a grizzled vet from the first Gulf War, who passes out masks to his residents and begins to do push-ups as a means of toughening up for the potential of anthrax inhalation.

The new film offers many of the virtues found throughout Alli’s canon: subversively funny dialogue (“Consciences are for wimps and anti-war protestors!”), an inventive musical score by his reel-life/real-life collaborator Sylvi Alli, and the ability to connect loose threads of intellectualism and emotions into a body of maturity and grace. The challenge of perceived and genuine threats posed in this film clearly parallels the logic that lead to the Iraqi fiasco (the phony insistence of WMD and Saddam Hussein’s al-Qaeda support); it also reminds us that no one was ever arrested for the anthrax poisoning of the U.S. postal system in 2003.

Unfortunately for this effort, the claustrophobia of the tight setting ultimately becomes too overwhelming. The characters sink into fountains of self-importance and self-delusion, and after a while their ranting becomes tiresome and vapid. Except for the caring relationship between the singer and the pilot (beautifully played by Rebekah L. Barnett and Duncan Cook), the others in the cast are fairly unlikeable and ultimately boring.

There are many unpleasant ways to face the end of the world, but being stuck in a boarding house with a bunch of whiny losers is among the least exciting options.

Posted on February 22, 2007 in Reviews by

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