Who is Joe Badon? Is he the 46th President of the United States? No, that would be Joe Biden. Is he an independent filmmaker based in New Orleans who makes strange films that will change your perception of reality? Yes, that’s who Joe Badon is…a one of a kind original voice in the cinematic landscape who made one of the most mind expanding films of recent years with the brilliantly insane film “Sister Tempest.” Now Badon’s back with the equally wonderfully weird film “The Wheel of Heaven.”
“The Wheel of Heaven” is a four part miniseries that makes up one film (or if you want to be technical about it, it’s a television miniseries, but for the sake of this review, we’ll just call it a film because the line between film and television in this modern era has increasingly been blurred). Part one of “The Wheel of Heaven” is the story of an auto mechanic named Marge Corn (Kali Russell), who may or may not also be the captain of an intergalactic spaceship doing battle with Doctor Universe (Jeff Pearson). After her space battle is interrupted by a call from her grandmother, Marge discovers a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure book called “The Wheel of Heaven.” While reading this book, Marge takes on the persona of a damsel in distress in a 1950’s style horror film, where she is being pursued by her evil twin in the guise of Santa Clause. As crazy as this plot synopsis sounds, it gets even stranger when one starts to examine the construction of Badon’s smorgasbord of creative anarchy.
Throughout the brief twenty minutes of part one of “The Wheel of Heaven,” Badon continuously breaks the fourth wall of the narrative, bringing us into a Godardian behind the scenes pastiche of a benign looking filmmaker (Joe Badon himself) giving directions to his obliging cast and crew. Although Badon has a friendly Mr. Rogers’-like appearance in these scenes, his normal exterior hides a wacky, unhinged mind. This eccentricity is best revealed in the brilliantly insane line-readings of Marge in her spaceship, as her bug-eyed and manic appearance makes her look like she’s possessed by the spirit of William Shatner while he’s high on crack. We also see Marge being berated by her boss at the auto shop she works at to stop smoking, while he continuously comments on her breasts.
So, what is this amazingly ludicrous cornucopia of insanity all about in the end? We will have to wait until the remaining three episodes of “The Wheel of Heaven” to find out, but what we can gather from episode one is that Badon clearly enjoys messing with his viewers’ minds, keeping them purposefully unsettled so that he can explore new ways of storytelling. With the labyrinthian plot of “The Wheel of Heaven,” Badon wrangles his love of horror films, surrealism, and campy science fiction television shows and films from the 1950s and 1960s into the fragmented structure of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The result is a wildly exhilarating ride through the mind of a truly unique cinematic mind.
Like the films of David Lynch, “The Wheel of Heaven” is best appreciated if one doesn’t try to view it through the lens of logic and traditional narrative film expectations. Yes, there is a coherent story within the seemingly chaotic, multiple narratives of “The Wheel of Heaven,” but Badon isn’t here to comfort and spoon-feed the viewer. Like the best works of art, one has to let go of preconceived notions of cinematic perception when watching “The Wheel of Heaven,” and learn to view film from a new perspective. What Badon is trying to accomplish with his Choose Your Own Adventure-like, fragmented narrative is to replicate the irrational, free-flowing nature of the dream-state. When one dreams, you are liberated from the confines of the everyday world, and allowed to transcend the limits of space and time; it is this boundless state of being that Badon is recreating in his exhilarating film. If the viewer is willing to open up their minds, they will be in for one heck of a wildly liberating ride with “The Wheel of Heaven.”
- Film Review: "The Wheel of Heaven: Part One"