The Review: I like to consider myself half the man that Francois Truffaut is – I’ve started being critical of other people’s work, but not yet decided to go the whole hog and attempt to prove that I can do better. In which case, I must also be half the man of a number of local Cambridge film-makers, who have been inspired by the efforts of others to make their own micro-budget films under the banner of Project Trident, and now have completed their magnum opus, the very long short film The Purple Fiend.
For a labour of love and such a personal project, the scope of The Purple Fiend is nothing short of epic. It follows the adventures of Professor Laminut and his faithful companion Googy, refined and well spoken gentlemen who are know to undertake the occasional odyssey or trek, on their quest to find the Sacred Colocolo of Porabolus, a mission with divine implications and which must be completed before the end of the year. So why is Laminut still in the bar on New Year’s Eve at twenty minutes to midnight…?
There’s always a risk with such projects that the joke might be lost on outsiders, but such pitfalls are skilfully navigated. Carl Peck directs his cast well, and the performances are all committed and energetic; the thirty minute running feels packed to the gills with incident and invention, and there are some special effects of both the practical and visual nature that go to show what can be done with a lot of commitment and a bit of patience. Simon Panrucker’s orchestral score is also worth mention as it also helps to give the finished product a professional sheen. While much of the action takes place in the bar of the Arts Picturehouse, the venue for the film festival of which Project Trident is part (and liable to lead to a blurring of fantasy and reality for hardened festival goers), the confined space doesn’t cramp the wit or invention and some judicious location shooting helps to balance this out.
Let’s not forget that this is the work of enthusiastic part-timers; amateurs is very much the wrong word as the anarchic energy on display in the fight scenes and the refusal to give in to normal constraints such as logic are commendable. Taken on its own terms The Purple Fiend is a great half hour of anyone’s time and stands as testament to the efforts of those involved with Project Trident over the past few years. It’s not going to win any Oscars – but then again, neither did Truffaut and that never stopped him, did it?
Why see it at the cinema: I saw it with this year’s other Project Trident efforts, and as this was last up it was around a quarter to one in the morning by the time the projector fired up, following an intermission and a second trip to the (about to be famous) bar for many of the audience. In terms of timing, content and setting, I can think of few better partnerships: ideal served late on a Friday night with a few beers, a lot of friends and plenty of laughs.
The Purple Fiend was also made with the cinema, rather than the small, screen in mind, and the sweeping vistas and copious gore feel right at home on the big screen.
The Score: 8/10