The Third Pint
Luciano Podcaminsky / Argentina / 2007
Imagine The Invisible Man remade as a feature-length skit for a British alternative comedy show by the enigmatic French director Chris Marker. Think it sounds like a loony idea for the most improbable film possible, possibly doodled on a beer mat after a few too many ales at somebody's favourite watering hole? Well that may be so, but, in so many words, that is just what Argentinean artist Luciano Podcaminsky’s The Third Pint is.
Podcaminsky made his name producing humour-laced adverts for some pretty big companies, such as Coca Cola and Visa, but here, for his first non-commercial film, he has plumped for the jumble-sale aesthetics of Super-8, exploiting the format’s aloof yet intimate quality, 1970s-skewed colours and its ease of transportation for the globe-trotting story. The narrative spring of “The Third Pint” is pure hokum, a Dulux sheepdog of a shaggy dog story. A man named David Maitt takes a woman out on a date, and they get on like a house on fire. As bad luck would have it, after his third pint David becomes invisible, and is forced to haunt the streets of London like a ghost. After a frustrating conversation with his estranged parents on the phone, he gives up speaking. After growing tired of London, he moves to Amsterdam, then to the south of France, and then on to New York. His invisible hair growing, he begins to have what seem like Jesus delusions. In a church in Holland he sends a worshipper scuttling away with his disembodied voice. From the top of a diving board in Monaco he vents his messianic ramblings, though to no effect. New York is his next point of call, then, after suddenly re-appearing on a transatlantic flight back to Britain, he decides to abandon humanity and relocate to Patagonia, from where he narrates his tale.
Podcaminsky treats his tall tale with a degree of seriousness. Whilst there are many scenes that reach after a sort of absurd humour, there is also an attempt to reflect on the rat race of life. After becoming a disembodied consciousness, roaming at will and reduced to a flâneur-eye that regards the world around it, Maitt’s slightly unhinged mind takes to mulling-over the nature of human existence. He becomes a pure appreciator of spectacle, a beholder with no stake in the events taken in by his vision, only the desire to share with us the fruits of his experience.
The Third Pint is a willful hodgepodge which skips and wriggles between tones and genres for the length of its 70-minute run time. At times, Podcaminsky’s film is reminiscent of music promo, as random images accompany snatches of looped guitar and processed electronic sounds. In parts, the way fragments of the unremarked, everyday movements of the city are recorded and commented upon is reminiscent of the work of Patrick Keiller, though the sardonic wit of Keiller’s narrator is replaced with a deadpan and often absurd voice-over.
Whilst Podcaminsky’s film strikes moments of quirky humour, of lo-fi beauty, and of homespun philosophical acuity, The Third Pint begins to grate by the end. Some of its humour misses the mark by distances we have come to expect from American bombs. The wooden acting in the bitty performed incidents is baffling and just aren’t funny. The heavy and unexplained accents of the Argentinean actors, who are supposed to be playing Brits, didn’t add to the deliberate atmosphere of endearing shoddiness Podcaminsky seems to be aiming for. Like many of the oddities that litter the film, it just reminded me of debris from a pilot for a Channel 4 sitcom that was never commissioned.
The Third Pint does have some striking scenes though, and is worth seeing, though not if you have the chance instead to see something by Keiller, Marker, or even the next series of the Mighty Boosh. At one point, before the premise of the narrative has been fully revealed the as-yet-unnamed narrator comments on a stereotypical scene of London with the observation: “here is a typical image of my city”. After a cut to an empty bench, the voice adds, “and here is a typical image of me”. The shock of disjunction between the absolutely banal and the arrestingly odd is one of the strongest moments in Podcaminsky’s film. I personally would have preferred another couple of pints of that particular filmic brew.