Canary’s Wringing Future-Is-Now Dystopia


“Is it the picture that’s crooked, or the room that’s crooked?” asks someone straightening a painting that stubbornly will not right. “Or are we?” A viewer may ask similar questions of this enigmatic, subtly unnerving puzzle film by gifted director Alejandro Adams, who has wrung one of the most original variations yet on the future-is-now science-fiction dystopia. In Adams’s bleakly comic vision, organ harvesting is an open industry and ad execs plot to position the Canary corporation as “the Coke of organ redistribution.” If that calls to mind a genre piece along the lines of Parts: The Clonus Horror or Repo! The Genetic Opera, Adams’s decentralized narrative elides anything as obvious as kidney-swiping or body-slicing. Instead, the movie concentrates on the world ignored in those films: seemingly random glimpses of workplace behavior, rendered with pitch-perfect realism; domestic scenes in unsubtitled Russian and German; vignettes of conversational one-upmanship—all of which take on an eerie cast whenever a white-jacketed Canary employee (Carla Pauli) materializes wordlessly in the crannies of the frame. Something subtle and irreplaceable in the post-Canary world has altered the meaning of being human—and the richly detailed sound design and insinuating compositions suggest that the something responsible is just outside or behind the frame. Micro in budget, macro in ambition, accomplishment, and scope, Adams’s slyly withholding film prompts multiple viewings—and deserves them.

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