Sunday, 3 September 2006

AKA (2002) - ickleReview (cinema)

Three is the magic number in director Duncan Roy's ambitious digital video portrayal of identity fraudster Dean Page (Matthew Leitch). Miserable in his middle-class life in Romford, Essex, with no chance of going to college and an abusive father, 18-year-old Dean is mesmerised by the glamour of the high-class clientele in his mother's posh restaurant.

Through a succession of lucky breaks, Dean slithers his way into the upper echelons of Londons fashionable Eaton Square, where he is adored by the camp aristocracy. Soon he too is wearing expensive clothes and eating in exclusive restaurants, all paid for on a bogus credit card. Dean's naïvety leads him into a homosexual Bermuda love triangle with fellow con man Benjamin (Peter Youngblood Hills), on the run from obscurity and family troubles in small-town Texas, and David Glendenning, a detestable free-loader who lives by the axiom that he makes even the royal family look "positively middle-class".

But Dean's masquerade soon melts under the heat of passion and the pursuit of two credit fraud investigators who hunt him down following his lavish spending trail in London, Paris and the south of France. On the brink of being accepted into the high society that he craves, Dean ultimately faces a choice between love and society status.

Roy tackles this re-working of his own true-life experiences with a refreshing vigour of originality. The entire film is presented in three simultaneous square frames, which show the action from concentric camera angles - sometimes in sync, sometimes ahead of each other, like a Bruce Nauman video installation at Tate Modern. The first twenty minutes of viewing is consequently very demanding, but one soon adapts to the format and appreciates the nuances it allows. The action appears to be filmed from three cameras recording at the same time, but the triangulation reveals that each frame represents a different take - as if three versions of the same story are happening at once.

Nugget: the end product is a visual banquet; but Roy's writing is at times unbelievable and potholed. Despite flashes of genuine humour and pathos, it is nowhere near as accomplished as Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley, but perhaps this is a deliberate move to mimic the crass falsity of polite society. Nevertheless, the sheer bravado with which the film ravishes class posturing in late-1970s Britain makes it more than worth a three-way look.

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