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WAX, OR THE DISCOVERY OF TELEVISION AMONG THE BEES (1994).

Every so often a movie comes out of nowhere and proves that imagination and perseverance will always win out over millions of dollars worth of brainless special effects. Here's a perfect example: Despite the lack of budget, stars or major distributor, this feature from underground filmmaker David Blair is one of the most fascinating science fiction films in recent memory. A complex meditation on the nature of life, death and reality, not to mention a startling integration of cyberpunk aesthetics and experimental moviemaking. Our narrator is Jacob Maker, who begins by giving the viewer a brief rundown of his unique family tree, including his grandfather, James "Hive" Maker, a super-normal photographer who believed he could capture the spirits of the dead on film. Jacob himself works for the U.S. government on weapons simulators, and spends hours standing amongst his collection of bees, hearing voices from within the hives. Without totally understanding how, Jacob suddenly begins experiencing different levels of reality, beginning with a trip back in time to the place of his birth, and the ability to sense the living souls within the weapons systems at his job. Eventually his bees insert a mirrored crystal inside Jacob's head, allowing him to discover a new form of television. And through these continued communications, Jacob comes to the realization that the dead are speaking to him in the form of these bees. Blair takes the viewer from death to resurrection and beyond, on a budget that most films spend on catering. He uses found footage to good effect, computer image manipulation to represent Jacob's hallucinations, and himself in the starring role. Needless to say, this film is not for all tastes. It trades emotional power and coherency for unique scope and vision. In addition, this is a movie that demand a little effort on behalf of the viewer -- much is left unexplained, and you have to meet it halfway and give yourself over to its hypnotic spell and conceptual poetry. For moviegoers in search of something altogether different, WAX is an exhausting, remarkable experience. [Postscript: On May 23, 1993, WAX became the first film to be transmitted over the Internet.]

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.