ZENITH "The film they don't want you to see," by "Anonymous," shouts the teaser, prefaced by warnings of legal threats and "illegal" images. Zenith comes off at first blush as merely a spurt of faux-transgression looking for rubberneckers. But it's actually a densely written, sparsely filmed dystopia, using the waste yards and warehouses of Brooklyn and Queens as the city of a wasted future, when people have been genetically fine-tuned for "happiness," leaving everyone numb and scrambling after painful-bad-side-effect pharmaceuticals just so they can feel something. Knowledge of language and abstract nouns have apparently also been bred out in the process (using the words "solace" and "curiosity" becomes a kind of secret handshake), and the dope-dealing hero (Peter Scanavino) is obsessed with tracking the eponymous conspiracy responsible for it all, as was his dead father (Jason Robards III), seen in samizdat video tapes that record his investigation. (Not conspiracy theory, the gruff dad barks, but "fact"!) The waltz between grizzled, realistic acting (particularly from David Thornton as a spooky, upbeat post-surgery millionaire) and evocative compositions entrances, but Zenith is actually one of those films for which poverty dictates that its story be told largely through narration — a brooding science-fiction trip enjoyed largely as a monologue. Luckily, director Vladan Nikolic's lust for paranoid desperation is powerful, and his way with actors is stunningly graceful. Give him some money next time, and let him fly. (Michael Atkinson) (Downtown Independent)
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