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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 06.07.13] horror comedy drama mystery

I never thought I'd say this but I wish David Lynch would make a sequel to Inland Empire because that at least would make some sense in comparison to Calvin Reeder's The Rambler and though Reeder's follow-up to the perplexing The Oregonian (review) is a gorgeous, the cinematography is often spectacular, and brutal thing to behold, I have no idea what I watched.

Likely the oddest road movie you'll ever see, The Rambler stars Dermot Mulroney, of late taking on some bold and unlikely roles, as The Rambler, a man recently released from prison who is making his way to his estranged brother's ranch in Oregon. Along the way he encounters a number of interesting characters including a scientist type who claims to have a machine that will read your dreams and transfer them to VHS. There's also a girl who keeps haunting The Rambler's dreams. Or perhaps it's his reality; I honestly don't know.

It's clear from the opening minutes that this isn't going to play out in any sort of linear fashion. Before The Rambler's release we see a quickly edited sequence of events which have unfolded while he's been in prison. Then there's the video tracking that occasionally infiltrates the screen, a marker of what is unclear. I assume this means that The Rambler is hooked up to the dream reading machine and we're simply watching his dream, or more accurately nightmare, unfold. It's only one theory but heck, it's the only one that makes any sort of sense in understanding the strange events that unfold in the course of the movie.

The Oregonian's Lindsay Pulsipher makes a return appearance here as The Rambler's romantic interest and reappears on numerous occasions to haunt him. It's clear that he recognizes her but we're never quite sure if he remembers her previous incarnation or whether he even cares. Mulroney is ridiculously cool and collected through the entire thing. He never loses his hat and glasses, even when caught in a boxing match, but his aloofness is perfect and further suggests that maybe the unfolding events aren't really happening.

Thought it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I found myself glued to The Gambler. Most of the time I was scratching my head trying to figure out what was going on and when I finally gave up on the idea that the movie follows any sort of regular storytelling lines and gave myself over to the strangeness of it, I really did like it. The overall story is a mess but from scene to scene, there are some fantastically odd moments, a great assortment of practical effects and quite a few sequences that made me wish for isntant replay.

I'm certain I'll never find the energy to delve into the minutia of The Rambler to dig out an overarching story or to decipher some deeply buried meaning, but it's certainly a unique experience, the kind of movie that works like gangbusters under the influence of narcotics though be warned that experience will likely give you nightmares for weeks. Like The Oregonian, The Rambler is the kind of movie that needs to be experienced. If you're already familiar with Reeder's work, you're in for a heck of a treat and if not... tread carefully.

The Rambler begins a one week limited engagement at the reRun Theater in Brooklyn on June 7.

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