Jacques Boyreau's anarchic, funked-up In starts out as a pseudodocumentary (complete with voice-of-God narrator) about Mission District “travelers of the silver-sugar smack highway.” Once the self-admitted homage to Dusty and Sweets McGee is out of the way, however, the movie shifts focus to a crucial, average day in the life of a gawky, strung-out beanstalk in red plaid pants and midnight shades. Pierre (played by Boyreau), would you believe, is even more wired than usual because his new band's first gig is tonight.
This pliant plot line neatly accommodates a messy, entertaining jumble of ramshackle conversations, low-rent clubs, dubious sexual collisions, mystifying blaxploitation references, and out-and-out non sequiturs. Self-indulgent and gratuitous? You betcha. But thanks to a dry, mocking sense of humor and a tasty soundtrack by the likes of Slaughterhouse, Rrope, Mingo 2000, Karyo Tengoku (the same “band” that Boyreau pal Jon Moritsugu used in Mod Fuck Explosion), Arthur Stone, and Dimebag Child, In rises above most ultralow-budget, art-poseur guerrilla features.
Chances are still excellent you'll be grossed-out by a character smearing himself with feces (an excruciatingly tangible metaphor for being shat on by a lover), even if that's “The Star-Spangled Banner” blaring in the background. And you'll probably be totally annoyed that the dubbed dialogue is out of sync. That is, until you realize it's so far off that it's not incompetence, but a savage joke. (A subversive comment on technically flawless but passionless movies? A dig at the captivity of audiences? Heck if I know.)
Among its pleasures, In offers a hit-and-run slagging of the performance-art scene and one of the sliest, most chilling rock 'n' roll seduction scenes I've ever seen. (Inviting a pretty young singer to stop by and do a few numbers before his band's set, Pierre winks, “I gotta check out the product first.”) At the same time, Boyreau isn't above the shock value of porno inserts, foot-licking, or masturbation (capped by a freeze-frame climax).
There's something else going on, as well, but I'm not sure what it means. From the opening shot of a smiling black child entertainer to the shaggy cone hat (like a white-trash Afro) that Pierre wears throughout the film to the repeated “nigger” references, Boyreau repays some foggy debt to black culture. Maybe it's just an in-joke (hence the movie's title). Maybe it reflects a drughead's fuzzy, strenuously enforced illogic. After all, whose idea was the alien sea creature that devours Pierre's necking partner on a rotting China Basin pier? Why does the bass player bring pig heads to the gig? What's that bored radio DJ doing in the film?
Do you think it could be postmodern, deconstructionist commentary? Nope. Just good, dirty, midnight-movie fun.