by Sunny Xiang

Kalesius and Clotho — on paper they could easily pass for Zeus’s half-brother twice removed and Apollo’s favorite step-cousin. In reality, however, Kalesius and Clotho’s existence stretches no further than Kyle Gilman’s imagination.

Well, at least that was the case until Gilman weaved his make-believe Greek myth into a smart and quirky short comedy titled The Epic Tale of Kalesius and Clotho: A Meditation on the Impossibility of Romantic Love in a Rapidly Expanding Universe.

The Epic Tale Kalesius and Clotho follows the main character, director Kyle Gilman (as portrayed by himself), in his futile attempts to win back Jennie Tarr (also playing herself), the former leading lady in his production of the Kalesius and Clotho myth.

Gilman chuckles wryly when asked about the similarities he shares with the Kyle in the film. “Kyle talks the way I talk, but I try to keep the character pretty different,” Gilman says. “To a certain extent, it’s taking my own character and blowing it out of proportion, but I try not to associate myself too much with a character — he’s kind of arrogant and clueless, and I’d like to think I’m not.”

Arrogant and clueless? Or maybe just lovesick and infatuated. After all, Jennie is blonde, perky and beautiful; in Kyle’s eyes, she’s perfect. Well, almost perfect. She has just two flaws: one, she does not love Kyle; and two, as Kyle begrudgingly discovers, she is hopelessly irreplaceable.

At first, Kyle thinks Janine (Ashley Linton), a seemingly creditable Jennie look-alike, is the perfect solution. However, as he begins filming for Kalesius and Clotho, Janine’s inevitable imperfections seem to only manifest Kyle’s obsession with the original Jennie. The more he consumed he becomes with turning Janine into Jennie reincarnated, the less he is able to cope with all of Janine’s inevitable un-Jennie-like flaws.

“The framing of the film allowed me to tell the story of Kyle and Jennie without having to make [the “Kalesius and Clotho” myth] the central story,” says Gilman, who based Kyle and Jennie’s relationship on a less extreme version of his own misadventures with Jennie Tarr from a previous film, Camera Noise.

In The Epic Tale of Kalesius and Clotho, Gilman plays around with the notion of the “nature of free will and romantic relationships.”

Using sharp wit and mock earnestness, the film brings out the humor in Kyle’s indulgent pretensions and obsessive-compulsive tendencies as he struggles in vain to recreate Jennie’s “nuances” in Janine.

Kyle’s irrepressible fascination with Jennie may serve as the basis for the story’s humor, but there are also plenty of other details and exaggerations throughout the film that contribute to its comic effect.

Some of the most entertaining scenes are from the “Kalesius and Clotho” production that Kyle is directing in the film. Set against two-dimensional backdrops of the Parthenon and Mount Olympus, the production is purposely amateur. The melodramatic actors and their grandiose lines are hilarious, with the funniest character being the dolled-up Jennie/Janine whose shiny lipstick, plucked brows and soft rouge provide a stark contrast to her plain white Grecian tunica.

Another notable scene is Kyle and Janine’s dizzying merry-go-round chase around a blackboard. Kyle uses the board as a prop for his explanation of Einstein’s concept of “the big blender,” [Cosmological Constant, –Kyle] which he then uses as an analogy to explain his natural attraction to Jennie.

Gilman, who is currently working on putting out a DVD of his other films, produced The Epic Tale of Kalesius and Clotho as a Senior Thesis for Harvard University’s film department. The film was graded Summa– cum Laude and has since won awards such as Best Student Film at the Dahlonega International Film Festival and the Martin Scorsese Award at the Ivy Film Festival.

“I wanted the film to be something that felt kind of real. The acting was something realistic and the dialogue was something people would say,” Gilman says. “And I wanted it to be funny — that was important.”

The Epic Tale of Kalesius and Clotho, which will be showing at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival, achieves Gilman’s intended effects with ease, flair, wit and irresistible hilarity.

Although Gilman says he is content with his film and appreciative of the awards and praise it has received, he also admits he has never been entirely satisfied with the film’s ending.

“I think I never knew what to say at the end,” says Gilman, who actually reshot the closing scenes after he graduated. “I don’t think I ever came to a conclusion as to what Kyle was doing and what the other characters are doing.

“But other than that,” he quickly adds, “I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out.”

And happy he should be.

Sunny Xiang