The Passing - The Passing( Blu Ray & DVD) [Vinegar Syndrome - 2019]The Passing is a dizzying, often disorienting, wholly idiosyncratic Sci-fi film that randomly darts between whimsical & felt, sad & morose, 1980ís technology headiness, and trippy-to-horror fed surrealism. Original appearing in the first few years of the 80ís- this distinctive & effecting oddity has been un-earthed by Vinegar Syndrome- been given a new 2k scan, offering up a new commentary track, shorts by the same director & more.
The release comes in two versions- an embossed slipcover limited to 2,000 copies(only available from here), and the standard VS packaging- with the double region free Blu ray & DVD coming with a reversible cover- taking in two different poster artwork.
The Passing appeared in 1983, and seemingly played for only a week in a few selected US screens- then seemingly disappeared. The film was the first feature directed & written by Washington born John Huckert- who seemingly didnít resurface until the late 1990ís/ early 2000ís when he once again wrote/ directed a no-budget serial killer thriller- Hard, experimental documentary about Busch Gardens in Pasadena Garden Of Dreams, and sexualized on-line stalker movie Strangers Online, as well as co-writing a selection of low budget action-adventures & Dino attack capers. With The Passing, heís certainly got one foot in more experimental film-making, though for the most part, the whole thing( just at times) hangs onto some sort logic, even if the plot is often unfolded in a fairly no-linear manner.
For most of itís runtime the film flits back & forth between two stories/ two sets of characters- we have skinny & goateed blue-collar worker Wade Carney (played by director Huckert), whose bartender girlfriend is raped by a intruder , and he takes out revenge & killing the rapist in a most unsettling manner (involving a car lift, spanners inserted somewhere delicate), before getting put on death row. Then we have aging veteran Ernie Neuman- whose wife passed away some years back, and he now lives with his aging fellow serviceman black American Leviticus Washington- who Ernie Often thinks is his departed wife. The film has a very schizophrenic quality as we, at times jarringly, switch between the bleak, grimy & dark life of Wade- this is soundtracked by soured & pitch sliding synth craft. Then we have Ernieís story- which is sentimental & whimsical, with moments of sadness & dark humor- which are soundtrack by snippets of quirky novelty songs from the 1930ís/í40s. The pairs stories move towards each other over the film's length, and in its last quarter switches to lo-fi 80ís tech fed sci-fi, as the pair finally switch bodies- and we get some really brain-scrabbling & trippy imagery.
The Passage really is quite unlike anything Iíve seen before- I guess the best way to try & get to grips/ explain what we have here is a mix of Requiem For Dream, felt & sad drama, and early Cronenberg. Itís a film that certainly needs a fairly clear & focused head to watch it, and to fully get all the layers, storylines occurring here- but itís well worth the focus & effort, as Hucket has really created something very unique- though I can also understand why it only played for a short time on its original release- as it shifts & jumps cinematic genres, as well as it does tone & atmosphere- which most audience I think would find too jarring & unbalancing.
Moving onto this new presentation of the film- we get a 2k scan from the original 16mm film- this is not up to the normal well defined & well balanced Vinegar Syndrome treatment, but as they warn before the film begins they where using very damaged & aged worn stock- so the print is just so-so, but the damage ware is never too drastic. We get a commentary track from the films director & Tom Fitzgerald of EXP TV, whose a big fan of the film- so you really get all the questions answered you could wish about The Passing- as well as film facts Huckert is full of interesting tales from around the films production & release, including the input of a certain John Waters who advised him on early cuts of the film. Next, we get two stand-alone fifteen-minute interviews with the crew- first is with the films producer/co-writer Mary Maruca, the second is with cinematographer Richard Chisolm- these both are interesting seeing each interviewee discussing how they got involved with the project & their early dabblings in film. Next, we get a selection of four short early films from Huckert- these run between around nine & nearing thirty minutes, two of the longer films are rough-runs for scenes & ideas from The Passing. The other two films are a little too arty, jarring, or student film like- sure there are interesting elements, but neither is wholly satisfying. Lastly, we get promotional & article gallery. So all told a nice bunch of worthy extras.
What makes Vinegar Syndrome one of the most appealing & cult-followed labels is their talent for hunting down surprising, creative & often long lost slices of cinema- and with The Passing theyíve done it once again- really I canít think of another film that blends together sentimentality with 80ís techno grimness, and moments of horror & trip-ness. Well done guys- this is yet another winner!.Roger Batty