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In Bright Axiom 2020 ****

a mysterious, highly entertaining documentary about a secret cult-like organisation

‘You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely knit group of nearly omnipotent people,’ reads the initial title card for In Bright Axiom, a mysterious, highly entertaining documentary about a secret cult-like organisation operating from San Francisco’s Bay Area. ‘And you should think of those people as yourself and your friends..’…reads the remainder of the caption. The author is the late, great Robert Anton Wilson, and the promise is a bold one. Why tax yourself uncovering the secret societies and conspracies of others when you could have a secret society of your own?

Director Spencer McCall has been down this route before with a film called The Institute, but his subject here is a fresh and specific one, named The House of Latitude. How do you get in? You get chosen, and directed to an anonymous office, when sliding down a Roald-Dahl-style chute begins your journey to a secret location. Elements of theatre seem to be breaking out round about you; eventually, you find yourself as a series of party-themed gatherings with other inductees and members, but where is this all going? And what exactly is The House of Latitude?

Most arts scenes develop some kind of prankster element, and part of the fascination here is trying to work out what In Bright Axiom is all about. Is this a documentary about a failed cult? Or is the documentary actually an embodiment of the cult itself? And did the cult actually fail, or just evolve into something else? Taking it’s name from a House of Latitude greeting, McCall’s film feels at times like an advert or a promotional film, with sequences designed to embody the philosophy of the cult, which seem to be in thrall to a god-like, dog-like deity which appears on video-screens and in an inner-sanctum.

The members of the House of Latitude community, or possibly the Nonchalance group, seem thrilled skinny about their experiences up to a point, and whether they’re real people or paid actors is of no matter; their testimony is stimulating and revelatory. They become disaffected when threatened with a $35 a month membership subscription, and the House descends into anarchy. But have they been disaffected as part of some larger plan? Is the film you’re watching part of a design feature to spread the word about creating your own reality? When you leader appears in a tin-foil crown and bathrobe combo, it’s probably time to examine your priorities…

In Bright Anxiom’s slippery attitude to truth and fiction won’t please all customers, but if you’re looking for something radical, new, thought-provoking and different, this playful documentary provides rocket-fuel for the imagination. Familiarity with the works of Wilson, Timothy Leary or Buckminster Fuller might help, but if you know these names, you’ll be in your element here. A good strong blast of counter-cultural energy opens doors in the mind; In Bright Axiom should work for philosophers, radicals and sci-fi fans of the Upstream Color/Primer/The O.A. variety alike.

 

In Bright Axiom is released in the US on July 14th, links to follow…

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  1. It’s a very tricky film to write about; my guess is that you might enjoy this if you stumbled upon it, but for sure, it’s not for everyone. San Francisco art provocateurs is probably a niche subject, but I’m a million miles from that and I was pretty much engaged, so who knows?

  2. Don’t take this the wrong way, but from your review I can’t make heads or tails of this movie or if it is something I’d even be interested in. I’m guessing the movie is that weird and that I wouldn’t.

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