The film Perfect, directed by Eddie Alcazar in his directorial debut, is a very hard film to describe. Defying categorization is almost part of its design — it has sci-fi elements, some horror elements, and it always defies expectation. It brings to mind films like David Lynch's Eraserhead and Terry Gilliam's The Zero Theorem, as this film is a slow burn of ideas. That said, though it may have some things in common with those films, this movie is definitely doing it's own thing.
Starring Garrett Wareing, the film has a story by Alcazar and Ted Kupper, the latter of which wrote the screenplay. On the surface, the movie is a simple story of a troubled young man who visits a clinic right out of a Black Mirror episode in order to be made, well, perfect. The ongoing voiceovers and gorgeous/horrifying visuals take this simple description and blow it up entirely.
Steven Soderbergh caught wind of this film while it was in post-production, and he was stunned by what he saw. He was immediately drawn to it, and has now ended up as an executive producer on the film. SYFY WIRE caught up with Soderbergh at a special screening in New York, where the lauded director shared his thoughts on the movie, art in general, and why he wanted to be a part of it.
One of the film's actors had worked with Soderbergh before, and let him know that Alcazar was someone to watch... and soon enough, Soderbergh ended up seeing a version of the movie that was still being edited. Exactly how "finished" was the film when Soderbergh saw it? According to him, most of it was there.
"This was very well advanced when I got involved," Soderbergh said, going on to talk about how he contributed to the latter part of the editing process. "The conversations that Eddie and I had were really about the macro structure of the movie, but it was all there."
The movie uses a great deal of voiceover— was that present as well? That was still in flux, it turns out. "There was not as much as you saw," Soderbergh said. "That was part of the conversation we were having, about trying to unify all of the ideas and just come up with a structure that was, by design, sort of loops within loops. So we just talked a lot about how we keep the audience chasing it a little bit, but giving them enough to feel like they're kind of tethered to what's going on."
Part of that tether doesn't necessarily mean that the movie takes place on our own planet. It's very much open to interpretation, and it could take place anywhere, at any time. This was part of why Soderbergh loved it.
"I never assumed while watching this movie that this is on earth. There's nothing that says this is taking place on earth. If you watch the movie you'll notice that there's no text in it. Every button, everything that happens, it's all symbols. That was another indication that we're in another universe here," he said.
It was this feeling that made Soderbergh stop, as he said, "demanding of it the things you demand of a normal movie." He added, "I just sort of sat back and went, okay we're somewhere else, I'm just gonna let this thing wash over me, then talk to Eddie."
He minimizes his own contributions to the film while praising Alcazar and his team. As he tells it, he was a guiding hand that helped Alcazar achieve his vision. "I'd ask him, 'what is your intention for this section of the film?' He would tell me, and I would go, 'okay, in that case I think there's some adjustments you should make to make it a little more clear.' That was it. I would be the last person to try and get him to water this thing down and make it normal. I love the fact that it's as insane as it is, and as I said I thought it was an incredible tour-de-force of images and sound."
"This is his first film," Soderbergh continued, adding, "I see this and I'm going, Ridley Scott, David Lynch, Jodorowsky, the references that I'm looking at here, this is a serious piece of filmmaking. The filmmaking is spectacular, whatever you want to say about the movie. I was just trying to help it, asking questions about what he wanted to achieve, and then making suggestions about, well, if that's where you want to land, I would suggest you try this, or try that structurally to try and get people to land there. I knew where he was going, so what can we do to make sure it has the maximum impact?"
Is it going to be a movie that absolutely everyone loves and will be accepted by everyone? Not at all. Though Soderbergh reiterated several times that there's no debating the quality of the filmmaking, he knows that the movie is going to spark arguments. "This is a movie that's gonna polarize people, but the filmmaking you cannot deny," he said.
Soderbergh opened the screening by telling the audience about his own approach to viewing a piece of art, and he talked a little bit more about that approach with us. "I was taught that when you look at a piece of art, you're supposed to open your mind to fit the art, and not chop up the art to fit your mind. That's what I was taught from a very young age. This was a perfect example of that, of letting go of the expectations of what a traditional narrative is trying to do."
"Stop thinking that you're gonna see something that's normal. You're not," he continued. "That's not to say that there's no story, I'm just saying you need to get into a head space where you're open to what the movie is doing. That's what I responded to, that's what I grew up watching. I look at this, and I go, oh my God, in the '70s, as a midnight movie? This is a huge deal. I saw Eraserhead at a midnight movie as was just 'wow.' This is that to me."
Ultimately, that midnight movie feel is what drew Soderbergh in.
"When I was growing up, the whole idea of a midnight movie was to drop your normal attitude about what you're gonna see. It's a midnight movie, anything is possible. When I first saw this, I said this is a midnight movie. Get ready, buckle yourself in."
Perfect is showing in New York City right now, and will begin playing in Los Angeles next week. It will be available digitally on Breaker.io starting June 21st.