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Review: ‘Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus’ is better experienced than solved

An image of a man wearing a fedora and a mask
An image of a man wearing a fedora and a mask from the movie “Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus.”
(Dalibor Baric)

As its verbose title implies, Croatian director Dalibor Baric’s experimental feature “Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus” is an inscrutable contraption. Chaotically arranged, like a feverish dance between mind-altering nightmares and pieces of reality, this ambitious mixed-media thesis operates under idiosyncratic rules to provoke a feeling of subconscious entrapment.

Dense dialogue and narration — only seldom making concrete statements — feed us a semblance of identifiable plot that peaks through the scratched filmed imagery. After disappearing for a few minutes in a time-travel lapse, Martin, a man on the run from a nefarious cabinet and displeased with the results of his trip, has largely forgotten his earliest memories. Sara, a woman fed up with ordinariness, and Inspector Ambroz, investigating this realm’s anomalies, add their voices to a crowded chorus of ideas.

Baric repeatedly compares the brain’s inner workings to a beehive swarmed with conflicting thoughts or an apple most easily accessed through a wormhole. The distinction between the inside halls and the outside walls of the psyche, what we imagine and what factually exists, is strongly referenced. Be prepared to get lost in those philosophical crevices.

Comic book cutouts interact with live-action footage processed and transformed into abstract humanoid figures. Silhouettes are used as vessels to merge textures in this potpourri of materials, sometimes static and at times enlivened through stop-motion technique. Baric’s entrancing collage, with an incessant penchant for psychedelic dissonance, is in itself a rebus — a puzzle that derives meaning from drawings and letters.

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A surrealist noir film resembling the retro futurism of “Alphaville,” this hallucination seems plucked from Jean-Luc Godard’s esoteric dreams. “Accidental Luxuriance” certainly fits in line with the French auteur’s recent antinarrative artistic stance proposed in “Goodbye to Language” or “The Image Book,” where image experimentation and conceptual discernment of the audiovisual medium are favored over traditional storytelling.

Late in the piece, Baric invokes Cronenberg and Tarkovsky, as part of multiple meta discourses on cinema, such as reality being a movie we cannot fully appreciate because we are living it. The fact that some clarity is obtained from time to time out of this barrage of existentialism doesn’t make the film less challenging to sit through, particularly if we follow our instinct to search for clues of a cogent interpretation. Intellectually mazelike, this experiential voyage is better appreciated when focusing on the vast resourcefulness of its artisanship.

‘Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus’

In Croatian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Playing: Available Feb. 12, Laemmle Virtual Cinema


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