In this week’s game, we used Kaleidoscope by Jackson Tegu to create an incoherent foreign art film about ridiculously happy people trapped in a tower with plates full of pierogis. A friend of ours had recommended we see it, saying “It’s like Towering Inferno with the fire taken out and replaced with euphoria as seen through the lens of pierogism.”
Our story begins with a young man with long hair on one side and a shaven head on the other sitting on top of a building, knitting a long piece of fabric that hangs over the tower’s ledge. He seems lost in thought and his name, we think, is Javas. A waitress brings him a cup of coffee with the cosmos floating inside it. Then Javas goes downstairs to the newsstand outside the building, where we meet Luthor the newsagent. They have a very portentous conversation that seems entirely irrelevant to the rest of the film. Javas returns to the coffee shop upstairs and interacts with people there. As he does, we see knitted items everywhere: a dog collar tag, socks, keychains, a tea cozy. We spend much of the rest of the film looking for more knitted items.
Afterward, there is a long scene in which we follow a young woman, Simone, as she returns from work to the same tower. We see her taking a subway, getting on a busy walking down the street and petting a lovable stray dog. Everywhere she goes, we see the same woman playing a guitar on the street, busking with the guitar case open. When she arrives at the tower, she stops at the newsstand, where we notice that Luthor seems to charge people different amounts for the same item depending on who they are. The younger you are, the more you seem to pay. The scene ends with Simone arriving in her apartment, going into her kitchen, and making pierogis. Pierogis appear with her throughout the film.
There is a long sequence in which Javas leads people down the stairs and out of the building. Along the way, on one of the landings, a man in a night shirt and top hat rocks on a child’s hobby-horse, and tips his hat to the people as they pass. The evacuation is interspersed with scenes of Luthor at his newsstand. First, he’s bopping his head to the music of street guitar lady, the only time in the movie when he seemed to be enjoying himself. Then, he angrily rejects a cup of coffee brought to him by Simone, demanding she bring him another. Finally, when the people come pouring out of the building and begin their herky-jerky dancing, he becomes angry and stomps off, leaving the picture not to return. Perhaps it’s a commentary on the World Trade Center attacks.
What follows this is a short scene with street guitar lady that is shot in garish, vibrant colors rather than the more sedate palette of the rest of the picture. In this scene, she meets a child and gives him a quarter. The child runs off to the pier and drops a fishing line into the water, pulling a wind-up toy up from the ocean. Then we jump cut to one of those crane/claw games in an arcade full of similar wind-up toys.
The film ends with a shadow moving toward a door, the camera taking on the viewpoint of the person casting the shadow. The person reaches past a plate of pierogis to open the door and step into a porcelain bathroom. We see someone in a pair of rubber boots walk across the bathroom and step into the tub. We never see their face or body, just their legs and the boots. They turn on the water in the tub and the bathroom begins to rapidly fill with water but only the bathroom. The inside of the tub and the person inside stay completely dry. As the bathroom fills with water, “Fin.” appears on the screen.
The movie is sometimes known as Pierogis for Javas because that was the name the producers had selected for the anticipated major U.S. release that never materialized, but the literal translation of its Armenian title is Ecstatic Dregs. You can sometimes find it online from file-sharing sites under the title AirGodsMessenger.