Unknown Pleasures Review: L for Leisure

Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn’s debut feature L FOR LEISURE is a surrealistic reenactment of the sunny, neon worlds of early ‘90s American popular film and television. Set in a variety of picture-perfect locales like Laguna Beach, Iceland, and southern France, the film is presented as a series of interconnected vignettes following a group of jaded graduate students on vacation. Unlike their counterparts from Baywatch, Saved by the Bell, and Melrose Place, the similarly clueless characters talk about their dissertations, alternative universes, and pop theory. The film uses the cheery 90s aesthetic and the experience of hyper-leisure to demonstrate the troubling isolation and privilege of academia as the characters move through settings of pure comfort in which everything outside is purely conceptual. This is particularly true of violence, which is mentioned briefly in relation to the Rodney King beating and subsequent “race riots” in Los Angeles. According to one of the graduate students, the troubling issue is not the event or its aftermath, but rather that “race is a construct” that “we made up.” The characters’ disconnect from the reality of violence is visually and sonically reiterated in the final scene portraying a game of laser tag. Accompanied by John Atkinson’s track Futurewarz, the characters pose and run in and out of frame in an absurdly abstract dance further suggesting that their relationship with the real world is slowly degenerating into pure simulation.

Check out the trailer here, John Atkinson’s soundtrack here, and if you are in Berlin, catch the final screening tomorrow night.

Fri, Jan 16, 21:00 | Kino Babylon, Rosa-Luxemburg-Str. 30, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz