Review by Benjamin Poole
Directed by: Jimmie Gonzalez
Starring: Daniel David Diamond, Daniel Faraldo, Michael O'Neal
Who would be a DJ? Hunched behind decks, furiously fiddling with cross faders; a liminal figure whose success at their job depends entirely upon the talent and graft of other people. Sure, there’s the art of selection, the curator’s privilege, but ultimately, you’re an ambassador for real musicians; playing their records to baying crowds who are almost always fickle and usually demanding too. So why bother? Because of those magical occasions when it all works, those shimmering and divine moments when everything syncopates, and you, the crowd and the music that you love are united, a symbiosis of movement and sound, where the line between individuals, the dancing audience and you behind the soundsystem, blurs into the beat-matched drums; one dancefloor under a groove, and, like some pie-eyed piper, you think, ‘wow, I did that - I am the KING! Hahaha!’ (at least until you make a duff choice and the dancefloor empties - boohoo).
Writer/director Jimmie Gonzalez’s The Red Man picks up on the DJ’s love/hate relationship with his lot, that preening narcissism which is underpinned by a nascent, crushing awareness of the role’s abiding triviality (good for him - there’s nothing funnier than a DJ with an inflated sense of self-importance).
Daniel David Diamond plays Evan, a superstar d-jock who’s having a bit of a midlife crisis concerning his, apparently successful, vocation playing four to the floor beats to spaced out clubbers. When he isn’t being haunted by bad dreams about his family being raped and killed before his very eyes, Evan experiences pornographic (and I mean pornographic) hallucinations involving former groupies. On the rare occasion that Evan is compos mentis, he’s more interested in the comings and goings of his bald doppelganger next door than dropping mad beats, too. Perhaps the brick powdery Phillip K Dickish drug he’s shoving up his nose isn’t helping matters…
There were moments in The Red Man where I wondered if I was watching the first true cult classic of 2017. Full disclosure, I have a vested affinity with the subject matter, identifying fully with the AFX and Orbital posters on the teenage Evan’s wall as he beatmatches instead of coming down for tea, and, rightfully, going all funny when Evan lights up a fat one and knocks on Nitzer Ebb’s PEERLESS Join in the Chant. But DJ pretensions aside, what fan of leftfield cinema couldn’t be thrilled by the delicious, insistent weirdness on display here? With a plot that includes secret societies, consistent nudity (a particularly well-staged recurring dream involves Evan walking towards a door situated in a white out landscape, as a phalanx of nude people, faces blurred, but with other bits defined and amusingly jiggling, run towards him), and a strap on dildo that flicks into a bladed weapon that the ‘lust murder’ sequences of Se7en would balk at for being a bit much, The Red Man is an authentic oddity.
However, it’s hard to argue that the different tones and ideas of The Red Man’s bag are mixed together into a smooth narrative sequence. Opening with a quote from Milton, and peppering the film with references to Jung (I think this is the only film I have ever seen with a bibliography in the credits - respect), you get the gnawing feeling that we’re supposed to take this stuff seriously as the film does; even though it features such Scooby-Doo stylings as an evil psychiatrist with a Germanic accent (‘Schtop taking ze medikayshun’) and (I’m not making this up), a secret passage behind a revolving bookcase. The whole thing is so ridiculous that it’s impossible to credit The Red Man’s illuminati-shaming plot the credence it gives itself. And where are the extended scenes of this supposed hero DJ dropping the sound system in da club?!
So, if The Red Man was a DJ’s slot, there would be a few uneven pitch warps, a couple of dodgy beat matches, and the occasional jarring transition. Nevertheless, there’s so much sense of adventure in this mash-up, so much disco madness in the edit, that you can’t help being a slave to its rhythm, if only to see what the next tone shift will bring. Like a DJ worth his or her slipmats, The Red Man at least always gives it large.
The Red Man is on VOD now.