Phantom Vibrations is very much a student film, with all the attendant charm and baggage that this implies, so, before sitting down to view it, please consider your personal level of patience with shakily framed cam shots that meander, wander and then die a slow death by boredom. But, sometimes, a heaping helping of muffled sound, drifting zooms and a narrative full of ambitiously self-conscious meta commentary create just the perfect tonic for the pre-packaged mid-winter studio pabulum blues.
The story follows a fuzzy, drugged-out day in the life of a puppy-like TV director named Morris (Peter Damm), who shambles around Chicago struggling with hallucination and reality. After a friend casually hands him a vial of clear liquid to dose his latte with, Morris then drifts in and out of a recurring vision, starring his girlfriend Ashley and an advertising man named Jack, living a parallel life somewhere in California, where they like to stare at pinecones. These weird trips are making Morris' days extremely difficult, including one that sees him interviewed on a Charlie Rose-style show, where he keeps losing the thread of conversation. You may find it equally hard to focus as Morris and a buddy take a seemingly endless car ride where they ramble about nothing, and manage to stiff a panhandler at a red light.
First time filmmaker Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman shows promise, but also stumbles into obvious traps they teach you to avoid in film school, including the dreaded alarm clock and toothbrush sequence, the inability to frame a two-shot, a repetitive synthesizer score and stilted line readings. The "is it all a dream" storyline isn't doing him any favors either, with Hurwitz-Goodman biting off a whole lot more Antonioni-styled Euro surrealism than he can chew. Is it fair to slam a guy for trying? Probably not, but it's fair to challenge a young artist to greater heights, and to applaud the Cass Corridor's soulful little Burton Theatre for giving him a place to grow.
Showing at the Burton Theatre (3420 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-473-9238) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.