Apartment 206 (2004)
(Release Date: February 11, 2004 [Sedona Film Festival])
For and a Half Stars... a short that doesn't come up short!For and a Half Stars... a short that doesn't come up short!For and a Half Stars... a short that doesn't come up short!For and a Half Stars... a short that doesn't come up short!1/2

Let's see there's Paradisio, Inferno... what's the third one again?

The 'forgot about PERGATORIO' Critic!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

If there is one serious drawback to the prevalence of technology allowing mass distribution of data on the internet and professional grade digital cameras dropping in cost to I-need-one-for-my-mobile-home prices, it's that every Tom, Dick and dick out there with a dial up modem and a web cam thinks he is automatically a Director. Oh, no, wait, sorry... FILMMaker! Just take a week off work at the convenience store and shoot that mother with your uncle, your best friend, and some chick who wouldn't talk to you in High School in the occasional scene? No original ideas? Eh, make a fan film! No one will notice that Obi-Wan Kenobi is being played by your six-hundred pound friend Jeff, just because he's got that plastic "laser sword" from Halloween and he's not totally bald yet. Hell, Photoshop in the SFX and call it a "sexy Stand and Deliver"! Yep, everyone thinks they can make a movie... just like the internet has allowed any Tom, Dick or dick to pretend he's the World's Greatest Critic. Oh... uh, Okay, changing the subject now...
Ah, man... Con's on the TV again!

Don't take my word for it, see it yourself!

Risk the Void, stop watching that old T.V., get out of that apartment and go see Apartment 206!

Click Here for a calendar of dates on which Apartment 206 might be coming to a Film Festival near you!

Every once in a while, though, like that proverbial jewel in that proverbial rough, an auteur or two can be found. You know, those people who haven't forgotten what makes a film good, and what drives a good story. Those who do that all-too-unheard-of thing... they take a well done script, plan out the best ways to shoot it, get the right actors to pull it off, and don't stop until you've got a little somethin'-somethin' that might be worth watching.

In this case, I'm lucky enough to be writing about Writer/ Director/ Composer/ Sound Designer/ Visual Effects Supervisor Gregory Zymet and his short film Apartment 206. In this film's 29 minute run time (it seems like much longer, but you still want a little more) we meet a pair of strangers, Troy Bishop's Conrad and Nicola Hersh's Sandra, who wake up one day in an apartment that looks like the Evil Step Sister of Dave's place in 2001: A Space Odyssey. While the flat is sparsely furnished and features only dorm-room food, Conrad and Sandra do find a most compelling feature in the place... a pair of T.V. Sets that allow them to check in on their loved ones. Why is this a plus? Well, apparently more than a step or two outside Apartment 206 leads one to eternal oblivion, and even a crappy tenement beats that.

It's not a spoiler to state that... well, it seems that Conrad and Sandra are as dead as Crystal Pepsi, Square Dance Revivals and Argyle Socks combined. And believe you me, they need these televisions of the gods, especially because neither of them can bring themselves to even think about letting go of their bygone lives. Well, also because they don't like each other very much.

It's this set up that allows Zymet to cast a carefully-woven web over an incredible amount of time, slowly building a story of two very real people cohabitating, interacting and playing their life games, but never truly growing or evolving... because they can't. They go through the unthinkable together, and while certainly a mismatched pair to begin with, time brings them to the point of at least the friendship shaped by the convenience of need. Where is Zymet going with this? You really have to see it to know, but needless to say he keeps you guessing and ultimately propels the viewer to a satisfying end, telling no more, and no less than he really feels he needs to.

And that's what makes Apartment 206 a success. It doesn't feel like a short, because it tells a full story in exactly the time it requires. Zymet has constructed a claustrophobic and actor-driven tale, which could have been spoiled by showing some of the "action" that is described, but takes place only off-screen. What's more, such choices never feel budget-driven, but story-dictated, especially as the flow and pace of the movie builds in time to an uninterrupted cerebral mind-trip.

None of the cheap-and-looking-it amateur tricks of the trade are used here. Zymet and a group of talented artists and designers construct real sets and do real work to make 206 feel as surreal as the script must read. However, that's only one small fraction of the main attraction. The constructed set(s) seamlessly meld with the real Apartment the Cast and Crew filmed in (actually apartment 106, because some guy named Gregory Zymet was living in the real # 206, word is bond). The lighting, design, damage, and use of Antique props all combine to enforce the rustic fantasy of the setting, making the surroundings seem real enough, but feel just outside the realm of comfortable reality. When Special Effects are used, the clear reason is enhancement of the story, not cheap dazzling. Zymet's choices of uneasy camera angles and blocking do that legitimate dazzling for him.

A special nod must be given to the casting here. Both Hersh and Bishop have acting range to cover the full spectrum of emotions a veritable eternity in a cramped space might bring. However, it's the choice of these people that adds to the realistic surreality of the piece. Unlike most Whoreywood movies, Zymet and Casting Director Charleen King choose the right actors for the right parts, not the glossy saleable faces picked for style instead of substance. Sure old Greggers could have found a couple of exposure-hungry models for his movie, but he chose wisely. As the time passes Conrad and Sandra become more worn, more torn, more tired and more dirty, and their acting matches this comfort decline surprisingly well, while still allowing for bright moments in an uncertain afterlife.

Where Apartment 206 shows its flaws is in some of the disconnected logic that flickers noticeably in an otherwise dead-on picture. Nitpicking the "science" of this sort of movie would be stupider than Crystal Pepsi, Square Dance Revivals and Argyle Socks combined, because the fantastic elements of the short make most Scientifiction look like a PBS Documentary. Still, some of the choices that Sandra and Conrad come to seem to take an uncommonly long time and leap improbably from one segment to another. Sure, it takes me some time to write a review or two, but folks, it's never taken me 30 years between deciding on something and actually carrying through. But then again, I don't know what it's like to be a ghost either, and ticking away the moments that make up a dull day prompted by little more than tolerance and living in the past might cause anyone to stop in their tracks. Hey, I see dead people, I don't especially want to emulate them!

The flaws here are minor and amount to not much more than the eye of the beholder, especially, and I mean this, because Apartment 206 is a great film. Gregory Zymet uses his time wisely and constructs a film no longer or shorter than he needs to tell the story he wanted to get out. It's funny, sad and intelligent and it's all that without ever losing its originality. This is no Back Yard Phan Phylm, kiddies, this is as unusual as it gets, and fulfills its promise from a point of view rarely, if ever, seen before. Everyone these days thinks they're a film maker... A few out there actually already are.

Taking Apartment 206 for what it is, and considering all it does with what it is, there is no denying that this is a very fine film. Judging it against its peers especially (no fair minded critic would compare The Smurfs Movie with Lawrence of Arabia), Apartment 206 gets Four and One Half Stars out of Five. Would you agree? Check out Apartment206.com, watch the trailer and find out for yourself. If you manage to see it at a film festival, good for you. But if you manage to get that DVD or VHS copy, melt down in front of your antique black and white, strap on those headphones, plug it in and zone out. You might find yourself right there with Sandra and Conrad. They're dying to see you.

Turn the key and slowly unlock the door-
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Apartment 206 (2004) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for the content of his reviews, and for the fact that he still lives in Apartment I - 8.
Uh, unless that's old information, in which case... I wonder if I'm dead.
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