(Movie Review by Donnie Saxton) Most of the time spent watching “Shaye and Kiki,” the first DVD release from Indican Pictures, will be spent with a furrowed brow. Writer/director Eric Fournier and co-conspirator Shaye Saint John have assembled a benchmark for the bizarre that will leave most scratching their heads and reaching for a drink. Had someone misinformed me that this film was a three-way collaboration between aliens, John Waters, and a homeless guy in South Central, I would have accepted that premise immediately without need or want of an explanation.
Saint John, who co-wrote “Shaye and Kiki” with Fournier, is a mask wearing quadriplegic, and stars as the central character (Shaye). Speaking only in a high-pitched whine that is as annoying as it is difficult to understand, her life and times are the focus of the film. Rounding out her overall creepy appearance, Shaye has creepy wooden extremities that basically function as set pieces, clumsily allowing her to do things like shave her legs, surf the Internet, and slap fellow characters. The movie, such as it is, breaks out into 30 episodes that purport to share brief glimpses into Shaye’s existence. None of these shorts is more than five minutes long and none have any discernable connection to any of the other. Thus, there is no plot, no narrative, no premise, and one might be tempted to conclude, no point.
A brief sampling: Shaye feeds a stray cat Cheerios; Shaye attempts to enhance the appearance of her nine-year-old friend Kiki (a doll with a charred face that appears several times in the film, often decapitated) with makeup; Shaye distresses because Kiki auditions for a movie and must take her “bottoms off” to get the role; Shaye does a public service announcement about fireworks where her friend, Sandy, catches fire; and so on.
Fournier employs various and redundant camera methods, color schemes, and lighting variations that leave the indelible mark of an amateur, either by design or lack of experience. The effect is perpetually irritating and occasionally unnerving. The obvious question occurs about half an hour down this rabbit hole: why do we care about the daily events of a disturbed, Joan Rivers-mask-wearing quadriplegic? Like many good questions, it goes unanswered.
What is not in dispute is that the creators audaciously blur the line between actual filmmaking and poor experimentation with lens filters and basic camera technique. The overall purpose will remain lost on most viewers as they struggle to comprehend the message hidden within a bewildering overdose of screeching confusion interlaced with childlike imagery. There are hints of self-parody and satire flung at the camera but none are fleshed out enough to resonate. Is the “Shaye” from the movie really Saint John’s alter ego, a mocking caricature of someone else, or even an out of work gas station attendant on a harrowing acid trip?
To be fair, “Shaye and Kiki” is probably best understood, if at all, in a broader artistic context rather than by conventional means. It is, perhaps, unfair if not completely inappropriate to attempt to compare or contrast “Shaye and Kiki” with mainstream film, and I suspect the creators would be offended at the very suggestion. Genuine artistic expression can take virtually any form, many of which large segments of the population fail to appreciate. For instance, I’ve never been able to recognize the virtue of modern abstract sculpture, yet my indifference (some would say ignorance) doesn’t keep many such works from commanding millions of dollars at auction.
Saint John herself is apparently a bit of a legend at the California Institute for the Abnormal Arts, a reservoir of peculiar forms of expression where venerable freak shows can come together and create in peace. Back in the mainstream, however, the only residue of interest that materializes from “Shaye and Kiki” is the emergence of the unmistakable persona of its star. Over the arc of 30 brief encounters, Saint John reveals herself as a casually amusing, yet obviously unhinged, pre-Madonna; a more intelligent yet equally self-absorbed (and, of course, limbless) Anna Nichole Smith. Her limitations don’t stir sympathy, nor does she desire sympathy, and once her obvious deficiencies are set aside, a distinctively enduring character remains.
Eric Fournier (director)