Wednesday, October 09, 2013

"Tell Tale": a modern, and somewhat expansive, setting of Poe's story; can people trade consciousness?

The 2008 film “Tell Tale”, by Michael Cuesta, is obviously inspired, possibly loosely based on Edgar Allen Poe’s notorious short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”, which I remember reading in 11th grade English. I did see the 1960 film decades ago. The film was partly produced by Ridley and Tony Scott (“ScottFree”).
Josh Lucas plays Terry Bernard, a young single father raising a girl with a genetic degenerative disease. Apparently he has some sort of idiopathic or viral-caused cardiomyopathy, resulting in his needing a heart transplant.  As the film opens, he sees visions of the donor’s last moments as the donor is murdered. 

Now, the idea that transplanting an organ could transplant elements of consciousness is intriguing. In my novel manuscript (which I need to get back to), “Angel’s Brother”, I play with the idea that a bizarre virus (encapsulating a nano-sized black hole) could transmit memories between persons or “soul-entities”. 

Terry feels compelled track down his donor and their killers, which gets him into a rather dangerous and self-contradictory predicament, as he gets recruited into some sort of supernatural mission, like it or not.  In the meantime, he falls in love with his daughter’s female physician.

The original heart surgery has left Terry in amazingly good condition.  Yes, there is a long, narrow surgical “zipper club” scar, but the chest hair has come back, almost hiding it.  (If I were an actor, I would have to have to go through the makeup for this medical situation.)  The transplant has resulted in some mysterious effects: His blood type changes, as some how the translanted heart cells migrated to his bone marrow, effectively causing another transplant.  His daughter mysteriously improves tremendously. But there is a price to pay, as the killers hunt him down.

In the climax, there is a lot of undressing and chest opening, and the villain is fortunately (for himself) smooth.

Michael Cuesta also directed “L.I.E.” (“Long Island Expressway), a film about a pedophile played by Brian Cox,  which I saw at a special benefit at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis on 9/11/2001.  (The DVD corrects a scene by removing the WTC towers.)  Cuesta was present for the Q&A that night, which of course was stressful given what had happened.  In fact, a coworker had traded nightcall with me so I could go.  Afterward, Cuesta could not fly home, and some of us went to a bar on Hennepin. No, it wasn’t “The 90’s”, it was something like The Metropolitan.  Cuesta couldn’t return to New York for three days.  I do recall conversing with him at the bizarre “after party”, on a day when we didn’t know what would come next.
The screenplay was written by David Callahan. I think it is challenging to construct an interesting feature length film from a classic short story.  The film is shot in Providence, RI.  The late filmmaker Gode Davis (“American Lynching”) lived in West Warwick, RI, and I saw much of his film on a visit on New Year’s Day 2003. I haven’t heard if anyone has picked up the project, but I’m game to work on it if others want to.

The American distributor is now Genius Entertainment. The film was produced by a company called, ironically, Social Capital.  Rick Santorum will not be impressed!
Wikipedia attribution link for coronary bypass surgery image. I guess the chest is ruined. 
For today’s short film, see “Your Money at Risk”, 29 min, form Merrill Edge, about Social Security, reviewed on my retirement blog earlier today. 

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