Crumbs is a fascinating and at times even astonishing directorial debut from Ethiopian filmmaker Miguel Llansó. Part post-apocalyptic melodrama, part peculiar pop culture collateral as objet d’art obiter dictum, Crumbs is a bedtime story for children of the far future.
Telling the surreal yet straight-faced journey of the diminutive Birdy (Daniel Tadesse), whose beloved, Candy (Selam Tesfaye), lives in a relinquished bowling alley. Seeking asylum aboard an orbiting but out of action space ship, the lovers decide that Birdy must go on a quest to find the autocratic Santa Claus and ask him to schlep them aboard.
Afterall, Birdy is originally from outer space and the space ship, which looks like a hand pointing heavenward, is their surefire ticket home, where they plan on starting a family. The quest will be precarious, a laser gun-toting Nazi nutcase is dogging Birdy’s trail, and all he has to defend himself with is a toy sword courtesy of Mattel, Inc, (still in it’s hard to tear open original packaging, too), a copy of an original vinyl pressing of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous to barter with, and his provisional wits to protect him. It’s not looking too promising.
Oh, and did I mention that Birdy and Candy share a bargain price arabesque shrine to Michael Jordan? His Airness is something of a deity in the Afro-futurism infused world to come, apparently. And so are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who’s action figures can command a high price on the black market.
Crumbs is what the fantasy film Willow (1988) would be like if Michel Gondry directed it on an immaterial dollar store budget, and that’s meant as an endorsement. This is a film of boundless imagery, shot mostly in the ghost town of Dallol, a volcanic, alien-like landscape with abandoned effigies and jaw-dropping vistas.
Crumbs also seems to share a strange brotherhood with Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), as an askew, visually dense allegory, and the re-occurring lion motif throughout the film offers another visual reference, to L. Frank Baum’s children’s books set in Oz.
Made with what feels like the astringent leftovers of 21st century popular taste and the stripped bare bones of colonialism, what remains is Crumbs. Llansó has made a wonderful anomaly, and a precious stone of a picture.
Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)