SPLIT (1989, 35mm)

With filmmaker Chris Shaw in attendance, screened from an original 35mm print!

In the home video era, it’s not often that films as wildly ambitious and visually stunning as SPLIT fall off the radar, but director Chris Shaw’s 1989 DIY indie feature remains a delicious secret known only to a handful of cult-film aficionados. Bursting with ideas, SPLIT takes you on a wild ride tackling the notions of surveillance society, personal identity and the very nature of reality, while the film’s visual panache and ambitious story belies its tiny, self-financed budget.

Shot in 16mm in Santa Cruz and San Francisco, Shaw weaves his story through the milieu of the Bay Area in the ’80s, replete with slackers, freaks, street philosophers and scenesters. Playing a lot like a live action version of Richard Linklater’s A SCANNER DARKLY, SPLIT mixes heady sci-fi and slacker humor, resulting in something manic, paranoid and broadly comic.

SPLIT focuses on Starker, a free-spirited drifter who uses a never-ending arsenal of disguises to avoid detection by a nameless Agency using tracking and surveillance to monitor and log the activities of the Bay Area’s citizens. Dreaming of snapping the public out of their complacency, Starker hatches plans to spike the water supply with a potent psychedelic that will fuel a new, anti-authoritarian age, and to make his way into the secret lair where the public is being monitored. Along the way, he teams up with a waitress and a hipster artist to avoid the Matrix-like special agents out for his head.

 

Directed by Chris Shaw. USA. 1989. 85 min. 35mm.


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