Justin Duerr can’t get us interested in cryptic tile messages.
RESURRECT DEAD: THE MYSTERY OF THE TOYNBEE TILES (Jon Foy). 85 minutes. Opens Friday (September 23). See listing. Rating: NN
Mysterious tiles have been popping up in U.S. city streets since the mid-80s, each with the following cryptic message: "Toynbee Idea. In Kubrick's 2001. Resurrect Dead. On Planet Jupiter." Who's the street artist behind these tiles? More importantly, who cares?
DIY director Jon Foy is certainly aware that generating curiosity about street art that most people just ignore is a challenge. That's why he styles his documentary investigation as a detective movie that follows Toynbee Tile enthusiast Justin Duerr, lead sleuth trying to uncover the identity of an artist who doesn't want to be found.
As Justin and his collaborators knock on doors, hand out flyers, crash short-wave radio conventions (yes, there's a connection) and make half-assed conjectures about what the tiles mean, they end up becoming the real subjects of the doc.
Unfortunately, Justin and company are not very engaging. Their obsessive investigation certainly has intriguing moments, in a David Fincher's Zodiac sort of way, but these don't last long. In fact, during talking-head interviews, Justin often has to remind us how interesting this all is, because we're likely to have forgotten.