Ed Smith is a run-of-the-mill graphic designer who becomes enticed by Juxta -- cosmetician, model and no-sex call girl -- after meeting with her at a local cafe. Juxta uses Ed's obsession with her to change his focus and his obsession towards imagery. Particularly imagery that Ed will relate to the first time he saw Juxta. What Ed doesn't know is that his meeting with this mysterious woman wasn't by chance as a man, Viscount Laris, sits patiently behind the scenes pulling the strings.
"Everyday there are a handful of images that stay with us. We see them by accident or design. Create them consciously or unconsciously. Some stay with us for a day or two…most are forgotten in minutes, seconds…and of those images, maybe there's one that sticks out beyond all the others…the most powerful image of your life."
I know it seems silly to open up with a quote but this little speech from the character Juxta (Sarah Strange) essentially explains the theme and greater idea behind Dan Zukovic's "Dark Arc".
Juxta is a cosmetician, model and a no-sex call girl who finds herself in a peculiar and entangled relationship with Viscount Laris (Dan Zukovic). A rather eccentric dandy whose former existence as an artist and art critic leaves him constantly obsessing over the power of images. Using Juxta, Viscount begins to play a game with a local graphic designer, Ed Smith. Viscount plans on taking Ed down an ever winding path of obsession and one that leads to dangerous results. As Juxta begins to have an emotional bond with Ed, she now plans on turning Viscount's own cruel game against himself. However, Viscount has already taken this betrayal into consideration from the beginning and plans taking things further that will leave Juxta with an image that will haunt her for the rest of her days.
I bought Dan Zukovic's first feature, "The Last Big Thing", because it looked interesting. At the same time, I bought his follow up film, "Dark Arc" because it sounded interesting. After watching "Dark Arc", I have the same feeling of indifference towards it as I did Dan's previous effort, which stems from the fact that there is not much of a difference between the two movies.
"Dark Arc" is a much more serious and brooding effort from Dan but there is still a comedic element to it -- sometimes it worked and other times it didn't. Much like his previous effort, Dan skewers both sides of the same coin. In this case, it's the world of art and artists instead of pop-culture. The movie has a rather satirical point-of-view of the art scene; one that would seem to side with the kind of person who would intentionally use a phrase like "arty-farty." Yet the movie also defends art through the character's idealism in the importance of visuals and imagery and, in some ways, criticizes the critics.
Again, much like what Dan did with "The Last Big Thing" -- he doesn't allow his movie to take sides, so to speak. Which is good since it works in the favor of the comedy and does more to incorporate the audience than alienate. One of the downsides of the parallels between the films is that Dan Zukovic plays his character the same way as his previous movie. At times, "Dark Arc" felt like a sequel rather than a stand alone movie and perhaps that was Dan's intentions. But for me, it made "Dark Arc" seem less interesting. Like it was nothing more than a retreading of the same material.
"Dark Arc" would have been a complete loss in that regard but, thankfully, there is a genuine story to be found within the film's walls. The mystery and noir influence to the story and characters is truly a saving grace because there is a focus on the mystique of both the Juxta and Viscount characters and what happens when they involve an innocent person in their cruel game. Showing that he's capable of doing more than mocking, Dan actually builds a well crafted story of an almost greek tragedy of the lives of the three characters that was sparked by a single image. You could say that the title even suggests this by indicating that these characters were destined to follow a dark arc.
The movie is a dark-comedy that skirts between Dan's usual social commentary and a stark mystery that you know is coming to a boil as we get closer to the end. Unfortunately the movie lost a lot of it's interest from having too many striking similarities between it and "The Last Big Thing". Not to mention Dan Zukovic seems to be unintentionally playing the exact same character. What helps to keep the movie's head above water is that there is an actual well written story that maintains both mystery and a bit of dread. The theme of the importance of an image and imagery and the power it can have over a person is also presented and executed very well. "Dark Arc" served Dan's quirky filmmaking style much better this time around and the movie was much more enjoyable since it wasn't focused on its own bitterness and cynicism. It is too bad though that the positives aren't able to over shadow the general tedious nature of "Dark Arc" and how it felt like Dan was simply repeating himself.