Spencer McCall’s “The Institute”: Review and Trailer

6four-stars4Wow, The Institute: A Documentary by Spencer McCall. Where do I begin? Funky film noir style meets possibly real gorilla footage of one man’s sick game or cult or joke or artistic rampage thru the streets of San Francisco.

As someone who has adored this city for quite sometime now and fancied myself quite knowledgeable about the underground scenes and interesting factoids concerning odd ‘happenings’ around the city, I never once heard or saw a piece of this strange man’s game. Although thinking back, even if I had, I might have chalked it up to just another day in San Francisco. Odd people, dressed oddly, doing odd things? Yup, that sounds like San Francisco.

He begins with attacking the very urge inside every human to want to investigate the somewhat magical and un-known to lure his ‘inductee’s’ into a rat maze and have them bite at his every trick and clue. He unwinds his somewhat fictional, somewhat reality based story to slowly un-vale his artistic creation. Is it street art? Is it a game to see if the humans will jump when he says jump? The reasons and strategy are still somewhat unclear.

One thing is certain, when you start a project based in the weird and strange, you are going to attract a lot of weird and strange. Some of these characters are possibly just curious and some clearly quite unstable.

The filmmakers were clever enough to make fun of some of these people participating in this artistic misunderstanding in a way that wasn’t horribly mean or alarming. On the contrary, it was mildly amusing and allowed the viewer (me) to see the humor in the entire artistic movement as well as understand that for some of these people this was not a game and was, in their reality, quite emotional and real.

The creative way in which the filmmakers insert actual footage along side, what I like to call, ‘emotion grabbing reenactment footage” blurs the lines between real and the imagination and allows you (at times) to get wrapped up in the crazy web that is this man’s game.

Ok so re-cap… slightly unstable artist character creates an automated room that he calls the Jejune Institute, which leads people on an elaborate treasure hunt through the streets of San Francisco, runs out of budget for his creation and the creation dies. The end. Go see it. It’s fascinating and a must see for San Franciscans.


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