Plot: At the Canadian Academy of Erotic Inquiry, a series of unusual experiments are put into motion as test subjects explore their sexual and psychic abilities. The men and women that are part of the research are tested for sexual openness, with a preference for those who consider themselves omnisexual, while telepathic abilities are also given much credence. Luther Stringfellow oversees the entire program and his theories are the basis for the tests and experiments. But what will all of these strange experiments prove in these controversial fields of research?
Entertainment Value: Stereo was David Cronenberg’s first feature film and has all the hallmarks of an experimental student film, including a pretentious presence that permeates the entire experience. The movie runs just over an hour, but feels three times that long, as the pace is glacial and little happens, as the narrator is the focus more than the narrative or cast. I do like the visuals here, as the black & white images are quite striking in most scenes and Stereo has that special 60s/70s arthouse sci/fi vibe that some can’t resist. The presentation is simple, but well executed and shows a good amount of style, so even when little happens, it makes you wonder about the world Stereo takes place in, like what else goes on in this eerie realm. But I think that is the best part of Stereo, a glimpse into an unusual place that makes you curious about other elements, though we are never shown the outside world.
The pace is slow and the experience can be tedious, even with some welcome bursts of dark, dry humor thrown in. The narrator has some nice lines from time to time, but not enough to keep things interesting throughout, so we are left to lean on the visuals and the potential of this world we are shown a sliver of. This is enough at times, but even at just over an hour, Stereo can be a chore to watch. The real draw is going to be as a curio for fans of David Cronenberg, as it is interesting to see some of his earliest work, even if it doesn’t have a lot of signature elements in place. Others will likely find this dull or inaccessible, as Stereo makes no effort to entertain and feels much like an experiment in its own right. But if you’re a fan of Cronenberg or eerie minimalist sci/fi, give Stereo a once over.