Monday, April 03, 2006

Jerome's Razor

Jerome's Razor (2001, Reelcinema, dir. John Swon) Seen at Oak Street Cinema, Minneapolis, in 2001

Once again, here is an independent film with that “you are there” on-location intimacy, filmed in Minneapolis and in the Sandia mountains near Albuquerque, New Mexico. It has this sense of progressive reality that the viewer doesn’t get from the manipulations of high-end Hollywood art. The intensity of the characters in this movies has that edge that the critics noted for “larger independent” movies like “The Shipping News,” “In the Bedroom,” “The Deep End,” and “The Business of Strangers.” And here the point is to keep the viewer on the edge of his or her seat, wondering what is going to happen to the lead character, Jerome (Marcus Edwards), who, looking around 22 or so, has just come of age, started working, and entered the solstice of life.

I’m not sure what the title means, but it is clearly symbolic (maybe it is the name of a mountain). But I can remember an “I Love Lucy” episode based on the comedy resulting from tatking an art movie title literally.

He starts out working (an accountant, maybe) in a typical cluttered suburban office (maybe around the 494 strip) and dealing with office “relationships” that would interfere with the discipline and concentration of work. A pudgy office chum claims to be his “cube mate” and then becomes his boss, while showing what seems an inappropriate interest. But Jerome is carrying on a bit of a (heterosexual) romance with an young lady there, behaving in a manner that would be inappropriate in larger companies. He seems to take his future advancement for granted, but is becoming bored and depressed. He runs on a treadmill yet smokes in bed.

Here the film is bifurcated, as Jerome makes his journey to New Mexico. So the film takes on the format of Beethoven’s 32nd Piano Sonata, or of Profokiev’s Second Symphony, where you start with a sonata-allegro and follow with a huge “theme and variations.” Jerome runs out of gas near the ski lift for 10,000+ foot Sandia mountain, gets a lift (literally) and finds a small commune of characters with a young rather forceful and virile ring leader Thomas (Mark Parrish). The other characters are the “variations” and they all seem at odds, as if they didn’t want to be there. Is this a cult? Soon, they go off on a life-risking journey into the backwoods, leading to challenges like those in “Vertical Limit” (Columbia, 2000). It doesn’t have to end happily or triumphantly. It can die away, like Beethoven’s or Prokofiev’s variations (which is how I would have put together the music score), in an “arioso.”

New Mexico is well known as a place for people who “search for meaning,” for self-made philosophers. Most of this kind of searching centers around Santa Fe or Taos. In both 1980 and 1984, I visited the Lama Foundation (the second time for a “Spring work camp”), on the sides of Wheeler Peak north of Taos. The property would burn in a forest fire in 1996, and I don’t know if it has been rebuilt. (Maybe a reader does.) I actually did take a ski lesson on Sandia Peak myself in January 1980. My first time through the Sandia area was as a graduate student on a Trailways bus from Kansas University to Los Angeles in November, 1967, before I was drafted. So all of this brings back memories. Nearby are the ruins of the Chaco culture, a native peoples that took over two hundred years to dismantle what they had built, for unknown reasons. How civilization can fail.

There is a recent (as of 2005) head shot/publicity photo and new filmography information about actor Mark Parrish at I am unable to find this film on, but it appears under the link "productions" at with plenty of images. There was an unrelated Canadian film "The Secret of Jerome" in 1994, a 19th Century European adventure.

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