If you are in the mood for something decidedly different and altogether intriguing, give writer/director Alexander Roman’s neo-noir mystery The Black Market: San Francisco (ASMR) a whirl. It’s a modern take on classic mysteries using autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) elements to engage viewers deeper into the proceedings.
Besides offering what the store name promises, San Francisco business O’Hara’s Art Gallery & Rare Books also sidelines in hot items and organ transplants. Elsa (Christina Ros) is the face of the retail business, and works the behind-the-scenes illegal businesses with Jess (Stevie Vallejo) and Ava (Max Reeves). When Jess’s father, ringleader Boss Joe (David L. Klein), finds himself needing an organ transplant quickly, he finds it isn’t easy locating a donor as forces work against him. Side plots include a retired judge turned writer and someone he sentenced to jail time, and a detective suspicious of the goings-on at the bookstore who takes a personal interest in Elsa.
Briefly, ASMR is said by proponents to cause a euphoric tingling sensation, often from the scalp and down the spine, brought on by whispering voices, repetitive sounds, and other auditory triggers. The Black Market: San Francisco (ASMR) uses impressive sound design techniques to try to stimulate those effects in viewers. The filmmakers suggest listening to the film at a low volume using headphones for the best experience, which I did, and although I am not greatly affected by ASMR, the effect was captivating and uncommon.
Roman directs and edits his multilayered screenplay skillfully, blending mystery and intrigue with engaging drama. His sizable cast assists with nice performances, with the aforementioned leads all giving stirring turns.
Another star is the city of San Francisco. This film is a valentine to that gorgeous city, and Roman incorporates tributes to businesses from bygone times. As a former San Franciscan, I found this aspect greatly moving.
Blending the nostalgic with the modern, from classic noir and mystery elements with current headlines to legendary San Francisco businesses with contemporary enterprises, The Black Market: San Francisco (ASMR) is an entrancing, entertaining film that fans of independent art cinema with a dark edge should enjoy.
The Black Market: San Francisco (ASMR) screens as part of the Warped Dimension live-streamed online film festival — presented by Another Hole in the Head — which takes place online from May 7–9, 2021. For more information, visit www.AHITH.com.
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