Max, a young artist, believes he has discovered a new method of painting that could change the way people experience art. He decides to bring Sara, an art critic who he’s having an affair with, up with him to his cabin so she can write an article about this new form of work. When they arrive, she finds herself mesmerized and drawn to these seemingly living pieces of art and becomes Max’s model for his next painting. It isn’t before long that their obsession with fame and completing the next piece systematically begins to break them both down.
“Tabloid Vivant” is the feature film debut from Kyle Boom and what a feature to debut with — a high concept esoteric movie that features the destruction of two people through…art. On paper, the general premise of the movie doesn’t sound too terribly interesting (honestly, I was expecting a modern “Color Me Blood Red”). The trailer is what sold it for me — ambiguous story with a strong focus on visuals. Done! That’s all it took for me. I was genuinely looking forward to the movie when I sat down to watch it. After it was over though, I found myself at the familiar crossroads of wanting to like the movie more than I actually do.
It’s a bold move on Kyle Boom’s part to take on such an ambitious, high concept project as his first feature. With a few short films under his belt as well plenty of work as an assistant-director, Boom is far from being inexperienced. Even so, while the through line of the movie is fairly straight forward, it’s the overall concept and themes of “Tabloid Vivant” that are broad. It tackles everything from art criticism, to the existence of living art through a technological obsessed society. It’s no surprise that this script was written by someone with a doctorate in philosophy.
That broad nature maybe where the problem lies with why I wasn’t able to enjoy “Tabloid Vivant”, or at the very least, why I wasn’t drawn into this world. It’s not that I found the film to be bad — it’s a competently produced movie with good cinematography and good actors. For me, as a viewer, I wasn’t able to latch onto anything while I was watching the movie. As I said, the performances are good — Tamzine Brown (Sara Speed) and Jesse Woodrow (Maximilien Klinkau), who largely support the movie, are great in their respective roles. The characters themselves though, there was simply nothing there. Nothing that I could attach to or use to establish a connection with, at the very least. Even when Tamzine’s character expresses her vulnerability through her desire to be recognized by the masses or Jesse’s drive to make something important. It’s not that they lack depth, but no connection is created between them and I because there’s no reason for there to be one.
It’s the same issue with the film’s story as well. There’s simply nothing there for me, as an audience member. That’s a particularly strange issue to have with this movie as “Tabloid Vivant” is not short on ideas but there’s nothing pushing them forward. Certainly there’s some interest when Maximilien goes on about how a new form of existence can be created through the merging of art and technology. The movie’s themes and concepts are laid out in the beginning and, and as I said, it’ll briefly catch your interest but it doesn’t hold on because the movie doesn’t go beyond that initial setup. The movie becomes primarily about the obsession these two characters (Maximilian and Sara) have over this new form of work and how it leads to their destruction. That should have been enough to keep an investment in the movie and the characters, but there was still something missing. Something to push things forward. Granted the movie tends to meander at times (like when it comes to a sudden stop in order to introduce us to who these people are while the main story is already in progress) but it feels like there’s a complete lack of drive. Scenes are happening because they need to, not because they should.
There’s no drive, no substance and ultimately nothing develops. With the movie being devoid of any sort of connection between the audience and the characters, or the story, there’s nothing to become invested in. In retrospect, having something tangible or relatable is not necessarily a bad thing for certain movies if there’s something else offered to the audience, like a strong visual style. Which was something that I was expecting out of the movie — to have more of a visual drive. As with everything else in “Tabloid Vivant”, there are some moments, but nothing that’s strong enough to resonate with a viewer or to carry the weight of the movie. And I give it credit, it is an ambitious project and there are a lot of high-end concepts thrown around in the beginning, but the movie doesn’t follow through with any of it. And that’s ultimately why I didn’t enjoy the movie: it has ideas but there’s no substance to push it forward. I will be fair to Kyle Boom and his movie and say that this is strictly my viewing experience and why I thought it didn’t work. Truthfully, “Tabloid Vivant” is the kind of movie that is creative and ambitious enough that it’ll be enjoyable with the right viewer.