A YEAR IN THE DEATH OF JACK RICHARDS (Benjamin P. Paquette). 85 minutes. Opens Friday (November 10) at the Carlton. For times, see page 154. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
Benjamin Paquette 's debut feature about a man, his madness and his suicide is an awkward fledgling of a movie with mediocre production values, but it's an interesting example of a film student's emergence from celluloid puberty.
Jack Richards ( Vlasta Vrana ) believes his daughter was abducted by an evil cult who inhabit a respectable, low-rise apartment building. Alone and jobless, he volunteers to be the cult's "king" for a year, expecting to be ritualistically killed when his term is up. But Jack doesn't intend to take the hatchet of righteousness to the building's tenants or rescue his daughter. This is simply a prolonged -- and for the audience, rather unclear -- method of suicide.
Or perhaps Jack simply has too many bats flapping around in his belfry.
Filming mostly in grainy black-and-white with occasional sepia tints, Paquette relies on rapid cut-aways and noisy, red-washed foreshadowings of the film's finale to build psychological tension. Dissonant piano chords, bells and echoing voices rise in volume, then ebb away. A clock ticks. The audience yawns.
Even though basic thriller elements (loud noises, silent flashbacks/flash-forwards, jerky speed-ups) chronicle Jack's shuffle into madness, veteran thesp Vrana delivers an authentic performance. Quite a feat given the script's clumsy take on mental illness.