It's really only fitting that one of the strangest films I've seen in a long while would come to me in the strangest of circumstances.
One day I happened to find myself in the kitchen of the Director's Guild of Canada. (It's a story too boring to be worth recounting). Lying on the counter of the over-designed kitchen, buried underneath a fully signed copy of the 2006 Toronto Fire Fighter's calendar, I found a copy of Otto Buj's The Eternal Present.
It comes in a DVD jewel case with a 16mm clip of the original film in the hinge, which is probably why I was intrigued. It was also completely ignored. We all know films only exist to be watched, but as much as I wanted to just pocket it, my own conscience and the stern gaze of Toronto's finest (uh, naked firemen are kind of like policemen, right?) ensured I simply fired off an e-mail to the director and later received a copy of the film in the post. Hey. I write for ScreenAnarchy. We can do that.
The Eternal Present stars Craig Gloster as Tim, a clearly disaffected young man who, in his newly acquired job processing obituaries, discovers he was complicit in the death of an old woman. From that point his life is changed, with the film gradually degenerating into a war between Tim's reality as a character in a film, and the reality of film as a medium. Aspects of film, such as that characters only exist within the physical boundaries of the reel, and have no existence outside of the first or last frame, are explored, albeit in a method that swings between heavy handed and terminally confusing.
Filmed in black and white 16mm, The Eternal Present is essentially the dictionary definition of an art house flick, and it is indeed the feel of the physical film and the associated cinematography that proves to be the film's strongest point, other than Craig Gloster's hypnotically handsome mug. The film can be happily compared to the work of Jean-Luc Goddard (who is directly quoted in the final sections), with it's strangely lyrical progression through the unravelling of Tim's life, from confusing and painful collisions with the opposite sex to an intentionally unbelievable and stagey bomb plot. Alternatively, you can think of this (and his commentary urges you to) as an Otto Buj film alone. A film produced over a period of years, a film that tells a story that never happened and that does not exist outside of the first and last frame.
I would be hard pressed to call it a good film, or even a particularly entertaining one, despite the fact it is a gorgeous example of the dying art of 16mm film making. To a student of film, it is an educational and interesting insight in to low budget film making. To a mere spectator of film, it is a pleasing, occasionally satisfying succession of images, nothing more and nothing less.
It's perhaps faint praise that this seems to be the point.
The Eternal Present is a available on DVD from Diabolik DVD.