“Have you ever had a memory of a memory?” The question comes from an unseen prosecutor. His beleaguered witness, flummoxed, recalls once taking a friend’s story (a bizarre tale about a pervert giving away free bologna on a street corner) and presenting it as his own. Juxtaposed with the dialogue is a still from “The Sandlot,” the 1993 family comedy.
Composed of numerous other provocations — clipped questioning about the industry paired with 35-millimeter publicity stills from many major films, including “Apollo 13” and “Bamboozled” — the writer-director James N. Kienitz Wilkins’s “Still Film” is a stunning, acute critique of the regressive artistic sensibilities that plague contemporary Hollywood.
The challenging, experimental movie is presented in the loose form of a trial. It involves four unseen characters: prosecutor, defendant, witness and recorder. Each is voiced by the director. The players offer conspiracy theories about an evil Tom Hanks, and salient talking points about the erosion of the cinematic experience. Movie stills placidly shimmer, like old vacation photos beamed through a slide projector.
Eventually, the circular dialogue finds a center: The film posits that Hollywood, through a reliance on existing intellectual property, indulges our desire for an uncomplicated past, imposing suffocating limits on artists and crushing audiences’ collective imagination. Wilkins demands that we make new cinematic memories, lest we lose ourselves.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 12 minutes. In theaters.