The 2017 BAM Cinema Fest opened Wednesday night with the New York premiere of Gemini, directed and written by Aaron Katz (Land Ho!). The festival, which has been hailed by The New Yorker as "The city's best independent film showcase," will screen dozens of films durings its run until June 25th, including 27 world premieres. With events featuring celebrity guests like Jessica Williams and movies starring the biggest names in the industry like Jenny Slate, the festival is growing itself bigger than ever for its ninth annual installment.
Gemini sees Lola Kirke as Jill, the loyal and steadfast personal assistant to Hollywood star Heather (Zoe Kravitz). Jill and Heather are what seems to be a legendary pair, attached at the hip. The actress is immediately thrust into discomfort; she not only just left a relationship with another tempestuous actor, but in the wake of that personal turmoil, has also decided not to star in a film that has been in the works for five years - much to the director's dismay, played handily by Nelson Franklin (New Girl, Veep).
When Jill returns from an early-morning meeting to find Heather murdered in the entryway of her own home, all certainty is lost. The murder weapon was Jill's own handgun, which she had let an anxious Heather borrow just the night before, and the time of death was shortly after Jill had left the house that morning. With few other leads to go off of, and a plethora of physical evidence tying Jill to the scene, the detective assigned to the case (a stern and commanding John Cho) begins to suspect her as the murderer.
Distraught and overwhelmed, the camera follows Jill down an increasingly uncertain search for answers - and safety. Tightly cropped shots, often from the profile or back of Kirke, intentionally restrict the information given to the audience. Snippets of conversation are the movie's primary dialogue, and frequently the only noise is the motor of a vehicle or the film's gorgeous score. The music (by supervisor Laura Katz) takes advantage of the dissonance and discomfort of the burgeoning mallsoft and vaporwave genres, adding elements of the retro-dystopic styles to an otherwise harmless saxophone-heavy arrangement.
Zoe Kravitz and Lola Kirke in Gemini.
It seems like the more Jill digs around Los Angeles, the less she can find to help her figure out who killed Heather. More and more confusing evidence shows up, and as Franklin lays out in a moment of dialogue so close to laughing at the murder mystery genre that the audience chuckled, there are too many obvious choices for there to be any certainty at all about the killer's identity. Then, a twist is revealed for observant watchers when Jill spots news coverage of Heather's murder through the window of a laundromat.The adventure itself is gripping, and though it often pokes fun at itself and the framework it uses, Gemini is not a parody. Everything from its coloring - lots of deep blues with occasional sharp pops of brighter shades - to its cinematography - endless close-focus, close-cropped shots to purposely obscure information - speaks of intention. The final twist at the end is just plausible enough to work, though arguably not shocking enough to be satisfying. Still, while the ride lasts, it is beautiful in the way that the plating at a Michelin-starred restaurant is; a perfect portion of artistry.
The BAM Cinema Fest will continue through June 25th. Find out more information about screenings and tickets on their website or in person at the BAM Harvey Theatre at 651 Fulton Street in Brooklyn.