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‘Project Space 13’ review: The art of dealing with a pandemic

Most pandemic movies have been straightforward.

Project Space 13 will go down as one of the most experimental Covid-19 films. This is not saying much since most movies that touch on the topic have been pretty straightforward, but it still provides context. Nate (Keith Poulson) is a performance artist that gets a coveted slot at a Manhattan gallery. Just as he is about to start, the entire city shuts down due to an unprecedented pandemic. But is that enough of a reason to stop art? 

The film’s premise almost sounds too silly. Nate’s big break is foiled due to circumstances out of his control. He decides the best course of action is to continue his performance for an audience of none. The jokes pretty much write themselves at that point, and there certainly is a comical aspect to Project Space 13. But to simply label filmmaker Michael M. Bilandic’s work as comedy would not be doing it justice. 

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Project Space 13 is a commentary on today’s world – especially when it comes to art. Much of the film centers around Nate’s arguments with the security guards that have been tasked to watch over him. There is some good comedy during these moments, but the film also leans heavily into exposition dumps. This is a movie that is just as concerned with getting its message across as it is with having fun.

The movie is akin to being at a party and listening in on a conversation. It is confusing, pretentious, and a little too full of itself. Still, once you are in, it is impossible to pull yourself away. It is funny and weird, and creative enough to keep audiences engaged. Project Space 13 will not appeal to everyone. It is too odd and experimental for mainstream audiences. Those who are tired about hearing about COVID will also be turned off. Films fans who are looking for something off the beaten path should be impressed, however.

Project Space 13 premieres in New York December 3 and will be available to stream on MUBI December 10

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