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When it comes to independent film careers, there are few more interesting than that of E. Elias Mehrige’s. In 1991 he finished his years-in-the-making Begotten, a Stygian montage of primordial imagery, summarized thusly by Marty Cassady, a reader at Imdb.com: “God disembowels himself with a straight razor. The spirit-like Mother Earth emerges, venturing into a bleak, barren landscape. Twitching and cowering, the Son Of Earth is set upon by faceless cannibals.” Mehrige worked with a tiny crew and hand treated the film to give it a look like it had been around for centuries.

The film, which played at underground and experimental venues, became something of a cult classic and was championed by Susan Sontag. Five years later Mehrige completed a promo doc on Marilyn Manson and then, in 2000, released Shadow of the Vampire, a witty meditation on the filming of Murnau’s Nosferatu. Although it featured stars Willem Dafoe and John Malkovitch, the film was a modestly budgeted affair, though, which makes Mehrige’s new film, Suspect Zero, such a surprise. (Check out the link for the Web site which includes the just-released trailer).

A big-budget serial killer movie starring Ben Kingsley (pictured in the film at above right) and Aaron Eckhardt, the film has some pedigreed participants. Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner are producers, Raging Bull cinematographer Michael Chapman shot it, Aronofsky-regular Clint Mansell did the score, and Zak Penn and Billy Ray are credited with the script.

Mehrige’s films have been consistently fascinating, so I’m looking forward to seeing whatever mark he’s managed to leave on what looks like an uncommonly dark summer release.

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