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First Look Review - AIMY IN A CAGE

A free-spirited girl is held captive by her disapproving family.


Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Hooroo Jackson

Starring: Crispin Glover, Allisyn Ashley Arm, Terry Moore, Paz de la Huerta


"The process of watching Aimy in a Cage is exhausting; mentally, physically and even spiritually. I had to stop the screener at a mid-point for a walk around the garden, simply to get away from the noise, the screaming, the visual assault of colours and madness."




You can’t fault Aimy in a Cage for its ambition. Intense giallo style score, striking Bauhaus titling, interspersed news style footage, incredible animated inserts based on writer/director Hooroo Jackson’s original graphic novel, set designs so vibrant with elaborate detail you feel you could just step into them, an outstanding lead in the form of Allisyn Ashley Arm, who exudes an unpredictable, electric force, and whom Jackson exemplifies with a beautifully choreographed tracking pan as she performs a broken ballerina adagio through the retro day glo of the kaleidoscope set. The immediate feel is of undeniable, manic intensity: as all of the above occurs in the first two minutes of Aimy in a Cage (yes, before we even get to Crispin Glover).
Based on his graphic novel, Hooroo Jackson’s Aimy in a Cage is a passion project with the emphasis on passion. Self-funded by bitcoin investment and some canny transactions that I can’t pretend to fully understand, Jackson sidestepped the usual processes of studio investment to make a film that is, in his words, ‘anti-authoritarian’, both in the method of production, and also its narrative and thematic impact. You can’t fault him there, either. It’s safe to say that Aimy in a Cage is a true original.
The plot defies easy definition, but here goes: the titular Aimy, a free spirit, is held captive by her weird family – imagine a mash up of the Sawyer clan and John Waters’ hyper repressed squares - who are perturbed by Aimy’s bohemian instincts, so much so that they enforce a process of therapy, a kind of protracted electronic lobotomy, upon the girl. All the while, outside of the house, some sort of infection is cutting a swathe through the population, and, midway through the first act, Crispin Glover rocks up as a pimpy grifter with designs on Aimy’s grandmother’s gold. Man, I’m always happy to see Crispin Glover - that mad dance he does in Friday the 13th The Final Chapter! That chat show appearance! ‘Hey, you! Get your damn hands off her!’ - he is an actor of mercurial, fascinating talent. Thing is, in Aimy in a Cage, even at his most Gloveresque, he’s the most low key feature of the film. This is a movie where everything is dialled up to 11 and beyond, and, regretfully, this is where you can fault Aimy in a Cage.
The process of watching Aimy in a Cage is exhausting; mentally, physically and even spiritually. I had to stop the screener at a mid-point for a walk around the garden, simply to get away from the noise, the screaming, the visual assault of colours and madness. Aimy in a Cage starts at a crescendo and stays at that manic pitch throughout its interminable 79 minutes running time, never allowing for pause to explore whatever it is it wants to communicate or propose, burying its sentiment under aggressively ironic distance. If that all sounds a bit barbed, it’s because the frustrating aspect of Aimy in a Cage is that there is clearly an embarrassment of talent behind and in front of the camera. Any individual frame of Jackon’s film would be striking and weird-beautiful, and Arm is just astounding, not only for her stamina in sustaining such an emotionally demanding role but for her shining ability, too. It is exciting to see a vision being realised which doesn’t sit with traditional product, especially when it has the potential that Jackson’s does. But, ironically, by avoiding external interest/investment, Jackson has sidestepped the editorial influence and experience he so urgently needs in order to hone and refine his manifest gifts, rendering Aimy in a Cage a film that is easy to admire, but difficult to champion, or even watch. As a character says amid the madness, "There’s no meaning behind it, mother!"
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