A social and philosophical investigation disguised as a gleefully barbed satire, “The Plagiarists,” directed by Peter Parlow from a script by James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir, deserves to be the summer’s art house conversation starter.
The movie opens with Tyler and Anna (Eamon Monaghan and Lucy Kaminsky) stalled in their car on a snowy road a few miles from their friend Allison’s place in upstate New York. Tyler immediately establishes himself as an insufferable tetchy mansplainer; Anna’s deference to him is inexplicable. An older man approaches, offering help. He later tells them to call him Clip. (He is played by William Michael Payne, who went by the nickname Clip in the musical outfit Parliament-Funkadelic). He offers to put them up for the night. The couple flee to their car to call Allison for a vetting (she’s not in) and debate whether Clip is “sketchy.” Later in the evening Clip shares a childhood memory with Anna that blows her away.
Tyler is a cinematographer and aspiring filmmaker (of course he is), while Anna is a writer (of course she is) who can’t decide whether what she’s working on is a novel or memoir. Months later, while reading a fashionable work of autofiction, Anna comes upon a passage that she recognizes as the childhood “reminiscence” Chip had shared with her. She is appalled to the point of feeling violated. An attempt to commiserate with the sour, pretentious Allison (Emily Davis) only unpeels more weirdness.
The movie was shot on low-resolution video. Its crude imagery and the sharp editing that implicitly contradicts it are deliberate components of a termite-like digging into the permutations of postmodern cultural work. “The Plagiarists” does skewer its characters, but where it goes from there is more genuinely bleak than what mere finger-pointing can achieve.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 16 minutes.
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