One
dir. Tony Barbieri
Opens Fri. Oct. 13 at the Uptown.

THE COLOR IS BLUE. Every tone and tenacity, shade and shadow of blue comes to bear on One. The movie builds its own ocean. At times writer/ director Tony Barbieri's self-conscious, forcefully artful filming is overbearing: strained dialogue, quirky characters, rack-focus, a painfully unresolved ending. But One is not completely awash with pretension and film-schoolness--there are glimmers of inspiration, especially in the strong, well-written characterizations and the elegant evocation of place.

Charlie (Jason Cairns) has just finished serving a prison sentence for helping his grandfather commit suicide. He moves in with his friend Nick (Kane Picoy), a talented baseball player who's been a year out of pro baseball, and now hauls trash. Nick gets Charlie a job throwing trash, since Charlie's new status as an ex-con bars him from the teaching job he really wants. Both men are in their 20s, specifically living that floating year of 25, 26, or 27, when the ego cracks and it can't hold the world anymore.

San Francisco is as complex a character as anyone else in this film. Captured beautifully is the feeling that California is a silent, empty place with only a few highlights of sound. The trash truck whines and rumbles down block after beautiful block of San Francisco; China Beach offers solace with the squeak of seagulls and the tumble of water. Nick's gorgeous 1965 Lincoln Continental ragtop, off-white, rolls soundlessly through the green hills of Marin, drifting on a highway next to the ocean or rolling onto an empty community college campus. The car is profoundly sharky; and somehow, even though the movie only has a few coastal shots, the feeling is of always being close to the ocean.

But this movie is all limbs and fingers--appendages of good ideas, sure, but loose and free and awkwardly bent. No adductor exists to keep these pieces working with a pulse or purpose; no body exists. And because there is no body, there is no power of one. One is a foolish title, even oxymoronic, a signal of Barbieri's half- unconscious, half-conscious inability to pull this film together.