The Plagiarists

Studio: KimStim
Directed by Peter Parlow

Jun 27, 2019 Web Exclusive
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Anna and Taylor are entering their 30s, an engaged couple from NYC struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their creative outlets. Anna is an aspiring novelist working as a copy writer; Taylor dreams of making a film, but currently works as a cameraman on commercials. Their car breaks down on their way to visit a friend’s upstate cottage and they’re taken in for the night by the kind and generous “Clip” – a black man in his mid-50s who welcomes them into his home, offers them drink and conversation, and a few words (not to mention a secondhand betacam) to galvanize their ambitions to create art. Half a year later, Anna accidentally discovers that Clip’s most memorable stories were taken word-for-word from the pages of a bestselling international author. It sends her into an outrage, and her relationship with Taylor into a tailspin. By having the very concept of authenticity ripped out from under them, they question their self-perceptions – are they lying to themselves and others about what they want, or who they want to be?

That description may sound heavy, but The Plagiarists is an art film disguised as a lo-fi indie comedy. Shot on the same betacam which plays into the movie’s plot, it looks like one of the gazillion talky dramedies made for no budget in the ‘90s – and sounds like one of the countless mumblecore films released by today’s crop of microbudget auteurs. In so many aspects, The Plagiarists is everything that it criticizes and pokes fun at. The audience is knocked for the same loop as Anna and Taylor once they realize that the movie’s most striking passages of dialogue are themselves lifted wholesale – with post-film citations, naturally – from other works. Even the suggested intimacy of the couple’s encounter with the story-stealing clip is intentionally false as the older actor never shares the frame with the younger ones, his lines and reactions filmed separately from his co-stars’.

Written by noted visual artists Rob Schavoir and James N. Kienitz Wilkins, The Plagiarists raises many questions about what constitutes the truth and who decides that. It’s a fascinating experiment, and a wholly entertaining one.

(hwww.kimstim.com/film/plagiarists)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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