Film noir is one of those exclusive clubs and tags for pretentious movies that get all arty on us; you know the type, all dark brooding scenes and indecipherable dialogue lost in a miasma of directorial masturbation. Of course this is a more modern interpretation of the genre, there has been some classic films branded as film noir such as The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane, and The Third Man – all of which were released in the 1940s during the early days of film noir’s establishment as a bespoke genre.
The Perfect Sleep, directed by Jeremy Alter, is a modern addition to the genre, and comes across as a wannabe tribute act as opposed to standing on its own two feet. The story is told through ‘the narrator’, voiced and acted by the film’s screenwriter Anton Pardoe. The narrator is the prodigal son returning to a city in which he swore he would never set foot again. The draw of his true love (Porphyria) and her need for a hero is the reason for his homecoming. And that is pretty much the plot.
The Perfect Sleep opens with over 15 minutes of backstory being foisted upon the viewer and this sort of sets the scene for the rest of the film as it settles into quite obstinate narration over the top of a ponderous story that really fails to get out of second gear.
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The overall mood of the film is quite dark but the one saving grace for The Perfect Sleep is how well it is shot. The film flits between dark scenes which are almost black and white in execution, and warm glow episodes, generally with Roselyn Sanchez in them. These contrasting displays show up brilliantly well in the widescreen view. It’s just a shame that the presentation far outweighs the substance within the movie. And as the film wears on it is apparent that the production has become too much of a focal point for the film’s makers, but perhaps that is down to the weakness of the script more than a desire to present rather than to produce.
Most of the film’s actors manage to come out with credit despite the paucity of the storyline with Tony Amendola (playing Dr Sebastian) perhaps the pick of the bunch. Even the narrator, despite his laborious and at times overbearing dialogue actually comes across well.
Regardless of not having seen much of recent film noir offerings I can’t help feeling The Perfect Sleep is an opportunity lost. By tightening up some of the plot and dialogue, coupled with the excellent production, soundtrack and decent acting this could have been enough to generate a cult hit, as it is we are left with a film that leaves us disappointed and wondering what could have been.
DVD extras are limited to a single trailer for the movie.