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Jessie Ross, Robert Pattinson

“HIGH LIFE” My rating: C

113 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Claire Denis’ “High Life” takes place almost exclusively on a spaceship millions of miles from Earth and heading toward a black hole.

Those expecting a high-tech geek out should curb their expectations. This is outer space on a limited budget.

The interior of the ship resembles nothing so much as a suburban office park fallen on hard times; even the computers seem early 2000s.  We get only a couple of glimpses of the craft from the outside, and it looks like box.  Once in a very rare while a character pulls on a space suit, but mostly they wander around in red/orange prison-type jumpsuits.

Which is only fitting, since they are all condemned criminals — though we don’t learn that until later on (“High Life” is maddeningly reluctant to give up its secrets…most of the characters don’t even have names). Apparently these travelers were given a chance to leave prison and go on an intergalactic adventure.

As the film begins Monte (Robert Pattinson) is sharing the craft with a baby girl he calls Willow.  The rest of the crew are MIA (at one point he jettisons a few corpses) and Monte has his hands full feeding an infant (there’s a misty greenhouse on board that grows food) and fixing the ship’s systems as they fail. To the extent possible under the circumstances he’s a good father — cuddling and talking to the baby.

The film then flashes back to earlier in the voyage.  Monte and a half dozen other inmates take their orders from Dibs (Juliette Binoche), a lab-coated doctor who is, in a very real sense, a mad scientist.  We never do learn what the mission is about, but Dibs has highjacked it for her own science project.  She seems to have been driven mad by her inability to conceive, and she’s hatching a plot to breed her minions, who spend much of their time drugged into complacency.

Oh, yeah,  there’s also a pleasure room onboard where the residents can go for mechanically-stimulated sexual release. Romantic it isn’t.

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