Thursday, September 1, 2011

A striking (and very crazy) debut film

Bellflower hints at the arrival of a new talent, but the movie's not entirely digestible.
Director Evan Glodell has made a debut movie that’s as riveting as it is ridiculous. In case directing Bellflower weren’t enough, Glodell also appears in the movie, playing Woodrow, a guy who pals around with Aiden (Tyler Dawson). Their idea of fun: Preparing for a Mad Max-like world in which they’re going to need the homemade flamethrower they've been testing. Woodrow’s existential drift is interrupted when he meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman), a woman who (as women in movies such as this are wont to do) turns his world upside down. Think of Bellflower as Jean-Luc Godard meets Roger Corman, although it's not always easy tell where the movie’s serious intentions leave off and its exploitative elements begin. I agree with those who think that Glodell may be a director to watch, partly because Bellflower reminded me of something the late New Yorker critic Pauline Kael once told a talented young filmmaker: There’s something in your film, Kael supposedly said, but she wasn't sure what. I felt that way about Bellflower: Its oodles of unhinged energy seem to point to something -- even if we're not entirely sure what.


And while we're on the subject of low-budget indies, consider Littlerock, director Mike Ott's deadpan look at interactions between a young Japanese woman who speaks no English and a California town full of slackers. Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka) is traveling toward San Francisco with her brother Rintaro (Rintaro Sawamoto) when they're stranded in a middle-of-nowhere desert town. Brother and sister fall under the sway of Cory (Cory Zacharia), a local who turns out to be a bit of a doofus. Eventually, Rintaro continues the journey, leaving Atsuko to fend for herself, which she does pretty well. The movie's tension involves the somewhat ambivalent ways in which the townsfolk relate to Atsuko. Ott also explores what might happen if people are forced to make judgements about one another without benefit of language. Littlerock finally finds unexpected relevance, but Ott takes a long time getting to it -- and I'm not sure it was worth the wait.

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