Sometimes a first-time filmmaker will create a project that has
autobiographical overtones. The results can range from pretentious to
fascinating. When one has lived the life that Duncan Roy has, it is easily
understood why he would mine his life for his feature directorial debut. AKA.
I first encountered this terrific, challenging movie at the 2002
"NewFest" in New York City and listed it as the film most in need of finding
a distributor in my year-end wrap-up. Well, thankfully, Empire Pictures came
through and AKA is now reaching theaters in selected cities. Clearly, this
won't be a chart-topping success, but it is a movie that deserves a wider
In the late 1970s, Duncan Roy passed himself off as the son of the
feared London society dowager Lady Clare Rendlesham. He mingled with
the upper classes, was taken under the wing of one particular gentleman and
eventually was caught and served time for fraud. Roy later studied film and
began making acclaimed short films that showed up at film festivals. In
interviews, he has claimed that he did not really want to tell his own story
but eventually gave in to producers' requests. Knowing full well that he was
opening himself up to scrutiny and harsh criticism, he forged ahead with
AKA, a fictionalized version of his life.
The plot centers on teenager Dean Page (well played by Matthew Leitch)
whose father sexually abuses him and whose mother (Lindsay Coulson)
regales him with tales of the society types she meets in her job as a waitress,
people like Lady Francine Gryffon (Diana Quick). Dean eventually flees to
London and finds brief refuge with an older gay man. One day he ventures
into Lady Gryffon's gallery in Mayfair where he enchants her and she in turn
She also allows Dean to stay at her home over the Christmas holidays,
but her jealous and contemptuous son Alexander (Blake Ritson) orders him
to leave. Once again on the run, Dean heads to Paris where he pretends to be
Alexander Gryffon and finds a key into the expatriate social set. He is
befriended by the aristocrat David Glendenning (George Asprey) and moves
in with Glendenning and his American lover Ben (Peter Youngblood Hills).
Ben and Dean grow close, but it is Ben that David sends away. Forced
to keep up the pretense of being Gryffon, Dean resorts to credit card fraud
which eventually leads to his downfall.
In telling this tale, Roy has adopted the unique use of a triptych.
Initially one might think that the tripartite screens were indicative of the
confinement that Dean faces in his life, but gradually it becomes clear that
they are also suggesting a fragmentation of the character's psyche. This
device allows the director to employ multiple perspectives on a scene:
Sometimes the frames comment on one by using out of synch timing while
other times they are used to heighten what is occurring. Examples of the
latter are when Lady Gryffon takes Dean to lunch at the restaurant where his
mother works and she waits on their table, or when Dean and Ben engage
in rough sex and Dean's father appears in the center, demonstrating that
the violent abuse he suffered is equated with sexual intercourse. The three
screens may pose a problem for audiences unused to such experimentation,
but for astute viewers it provides a rich and satisfactory experience.
Perhaps it should be noted that when the film aired on the Sundance
Channel, it was shown in a single frame format with a slightly shorter running
time (107 mins.). The DVD allows for the option of watching the film in either
format, and includes an interesting commentary by the director.
Running time: 118 mins. (tripart version);
107 mins. (single screen)
MPAA Rating: Released theatrically with no rating;
DVD rated R for sexuality, nudity,
language and drug use
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.