Wax, or The Discovery of Television Among the Bees

Wax, or The Discovery of Television Among the Bees ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The Anti-Hellstrom Chronicle.

David Blair's Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees is considered to be the first feature film to stream in its entirety on the internet. Wax, in a modified interactive form, had its digital premiere all the way back in 1993. You can still watch it in pieces on Blair's WAXWEB page, even if many of the links are now dead.

Wax is reminiscent of Craig Baldwin's films, cobbled together from found footage, constant droning narration, sparing use of original live action photography and primitive VFX. And while Blair is clearly a political filmmaker, he's subtler than Baldwin, and less acid in his sense of humor. Wax is instead primarily a film in search of the sublime, a psychedelic work of syncretic alchemy.

I'd be lying if I said I fully understood the film's relentless narrative, but it all has something to do with 30-foot tall psychic bees from Mesopotamia, ghost photography, brain implants and the Garden of Eden. Blair narrates the film as Jacob Maker, an aerospace engineer who has inherited a farm from his grandfather in Abilene, Kansas, along with his telepathic beehive. Maker says at one point, "I decided that I didn't want to understand," and this doubles as instructions for the viewer.

The narration from Blair, along with Brooks Williams and Beo Morales' brilliant score and sound design, are a warm bath for the ears, hypnotic and total. Much of what Maker (the "Hivemaker") describes is shown to him by the bees on his television, and his psychic journeys--from the moon "where the dead live" and other alien planets to the site of the first atomic bomb tests to the Tower of Babel--always feel constrained by the frame of the TV, aglow in analog transmission, a terrifying but somehow cozy and intimated zoomed-in psychosis. At some points Maker is dispatched to physical sites as well, wandering around caves in a beekeeper's suit, in hacked-in hexagonal framing, in a striking series of compositions.

Wax is an overwhelming experience. It at least has a happy ending--I think--where Blair's narration ends a harrowing journey with a jolly "That's it! The end!" And as the Hivemaker's soul takes on its "true form" on the moon, the narration clarifies, "I'm a woman now! Actually, two women." Happy for her/them!!

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