This third collaboration between filmmaker Petit and novelist Sinclair is a strange pseudo-documentary set against a near future in which all cultural memory has been wiped out and a young woman is charged with piecing things back together. The movie is about exile and madness, about being the outsider despite immersing oneself into a foreign culture. Relying heavily on unscripted interviews with Elric of Melnibone creator Michael Moorcock, a London native now living in Texas, and the late American poet Ed Dorn, the movie is part conspiracy-theory, part documentary and all experimental, multi-layered filmmaking. While the movie is at times baffling, fans of Moorcock's dark sci-fi and Dorn's poetry will enjoy the interview sequences. Moorcock has the look and mannerisms of a native Texan, but his reflections on being permanently cast as an outsider are especially compelling. The rest of the movie feels at times as just an excuse to watch the highly entertaining writers, joined also by James Sallis and Marina Warner, talk about their daily lives and their relations with their respective communities. Produced for the UK's Channel 4, and subtitled "The Final Commission," Asylum is a daring but highly obscure film, certainly not meant for mass consumption. It's a scrambled, dizzying film to watch, difficult to grasp, but nevertheless challenging enough to be worth the hour spent watching.
Published Sep 01, 2000