Kurt Kuenne’s ‘Shuffle’
With its mid-May scheduling, the Santa Cruz Film Festival, which I continued to explore at a moderate tempo over the weekend, creates the ultimate first-world conundrum for attendees: How does one take advantage of all the festival has to offer when it’s 70 degrees outside? There’s a reason, I think, why many of the world’s most distinguished film festivals happen in places(or during seasons) that wouldn’t merit an extended stay sans said festival.
So it was not without a twinge of reluctance that I settled into a matinee screening of Kurt Kuenne’s Shuffle (no offense meant to the film itself), and found my sacrifice rewarded in a satisfying, if not overwhelming, way. The feature is preceded by Daniel Onoda’s short film Narcissism, and the pair of films share the concept of time-shifting, as well as an overemphasis on user-friendly narrative exposition. Narcissism is a dicey title for the Psycho-referencing short, exposing the film to potential cheap shots that mirror back its title as a criticism. However, this is a smart film that knows how smart it is—and ultimately, it’s too smart for its own good. It does, however, boast a killer original score by Onoda and writer-producer-star Orien Longo.
Pairing the mystery of The Twilight Zone with the romanticism of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Shuffle is a feature-length narrative effort from Kuenne, who directed the truly devastating 2008 documentary Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Shuffle is dedicated to the same Zachary). The film’s protagonist experiences his life out of chronological sequence—he goes to sleep without knowing where or when (past or future) he is going to wake up. Starring a terrific T.J. Thyne (of FOX’s Bones) and a wonderful Paula Rhodes, Shuffle shifts effortlessly between multiple times and tones—until a resolution that feels rushed even as it’s played out over a few too many endings. And yet, it’s hard to begrudge a film with its heart so firmly in the right place.
For the complete Santa Cruz Film Festival schedule, visit santacruzfilmfestival.org.
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