Directed by: Adam Pinney
Starring: Mike Brune and Tallie Medel
Foster Kalt (Brune) is the world's most famous toy maker, a man with enough wealth and fame to satisfy the most ravenous fortune seekers. With that being said he is also a man consumed with sadness, a man undergoing a vow of silence. Through flashbacks and hallucinations we see what got our protagonist to such a dark place.
THE ARBALEST is a satire on our obsession with money and fame. Using the framework of CITIZEN KANE Pinney sets up a mystery that is methodically told but ultimately pointless. Its a brilliant conceit and incredibly controlled film making for a veteran let alone for a first timer. I can see how the film will create a divide among its viewers. Its not a pretty story, its not easily accessible and it has the nerve to ask a little bit from its audience. We are rewarded for our patience but I'm not sure that everyone will be on board when everything is said and done.
The film jumps between a toy convention in 1968, an obsessive phase from the early 70's and an interview being conducted in the late 70's. This is an odd mix of mellow drama, absurdist commentary and stylized situational comedy that hark ens back to the Hal Ashby films of the 70's.
Sylvia (Medel) is the object of Foster's obsession. Her name is the only word we hear him say during his vow of silence. "Sylvia" is this films "Rosebud" and their relationship is the central mystery. Much in the way Citizen Kane isn't about a (spoiler alert?) ... about a sled, the central mystery isn't the point of The Arbalest. The film is set in a universe that looks like ours of 40 years ago but has some striking differences. Those variations may act as a distraction for some viewers but they are the point of the film. They are used to examine our obsession with celebrity.
This was one of the highlights of this years Fantasia Fest and I highly recommend it.