May 29, 2018  (Web Review)

Flames

(2018) 84 min. DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $24.95. FilmRise (avail. from www.amazon.com).

Reviewer rating: 1.0/4

Experimental filmmaking can be invigorating and provocative, but also obnoxiously self-indulgent. Unfortunately, it’s the latter that characterizes co-directors Zefrey Throwell and Josephine Decker’s grueling vanity film that highlights the supposedly daring depths of their particular brand of performance art. In this case, Throwell and Decker are not shy about filming the carnal aspects of their relationship (often only a camera angle away from being sexually explicit), but whether their coupling is documentary, docu-drama, or fantasy is never quite clear. And moments with the couple playing with sock puppets in bed after making love only intensify the level of cutesy narcissism that permeates the work. When not having sex, the duo engage in public performance art stunts in New York, including a strip poker game staged in a gallery window and a sequence in which Throwell crawls along the city streets (there is also footage from a vacation in the Maldives). Most of the film was shot in 2011, and a flash-forward to 2015 finds the couple personally separated but still engaged professionally, looking back at their filmed shenanigans and wondering how their relationship failed. A film lacking artistic or intellectual merit, this is not recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)