Kissy Cousins Monster Babies and Morphing Elvis

Written by Wayne Keeley | Review by Prarthana Mitra

Kissy Cousins Monster Babies and Morphing Elvis, sounds quite a mouthful at first, but as a film that engages the fullest extent of your imagination (and beyond), the title makes perfect sense. It is the name of the film within the film which stands to become a cult classic of our generation.

Wayne Keeley’s 30-minute short film, shot over 25 years, is a decoupage of the choicest icons, scenes and motifs from Hollywood’s golden era, warped into a self-reflexive tale of how a couple of Hollywood producers save their sinking careers. Not without getting themselves into a creative soup first, of course.

As we follow two coked-up producers try their hand at screenwriting, seek inspiration in everything—from Jurassic Park and Elvis Presley to popular American culture and proverbs—we are introduced to the irony of the entire exercise. We also can’t help but marvel at the brilliant use of the past and present of cinematic history to depict an all-too-known future. The heady concoction serves as a kitschy testament to the evolution of American cinema, and for Keeley, who began filming it in 1992, this stemmed from the extended temporality of the film. Incorporating a wide array of cinematic techniques and technology (that became available to him by and by), the stylistic progression depicted in the movie curiously generates a currency for relevance. Passing mentions of Donald Trump and a cameo from Hillary Clinton also helps.

The colour tones of “vintage” cinema blends with the muted pastel shades we have come to recognise in Hollywood films today. But what is more universal, is the struggle and intrigue that comes with the dream of making it big in Hollywood. Behind all the madness, mindlessness and frenzy is a surrealist quest for creativity. In a Mulholland Drive-esque twist, we learn that the two protagonists are only cogs in the mechanised reproduction of art, that modern filmmaking has become. They are trapped in a system where their ideas, which aren’t exactly original ideas to begin in, are being harvested by an unknown sinister entity.

David Belafonte and Steve Kearney perform an absurdist drama, voicing and gesticulating Keeley’s visions to cinematic reality. The film harks back to famous characters and tropes, including Charlie Chaplin, Sharon Stone and Nosferatu, all of which make for a highly enjoyable watch (to the film school geek) and a rib-tickling political satire of the industry (to the intuitive viewer). The seamless edits elevates the viewing experience and cerebral impact of the film. At times, it even reminded me of the masterful video collages of Ukrainian artist Miknu.

Keeley, an Emmy-winning producer himself, is also a seasoned film and documentary maker, and has made numerous hit music videos. He brings his familiarity with the medium and the sector to the table with Kissy Cousins Monster Babies. He hopes to deliver the next Rocky Horror Picture Show, and to be honest, he has hit the bull’s eye. This 25-year-old comedy does an excellent job in refreshing audience memory with pastiche woven skillfully into the fabric of a fantastical narrative. But as we all know, there’s a fine line between the real, the unreal and the surreal.

 

Prarthana-Mitra

Prarthana is presently in between odd jobs and obtaining her master’s degree in literature. She loves modern poetry and meditative cinema. Based out of Calcutta, Prarthana observes people, football, films and enjoys writing about all three. Of late, she relates to Frank Ocean’s music. Her writing experience consists of writing for various sites such as Try Cinema, The Indian Economist, Doing The Rondo, Saintbrush and various academic journals.