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27 September 2011

Bellflower, a Compulsive Secondary Review

directed by Evan Glodell
I have never done this before, but I have to dedicate a secondary review to just two major components of Evan Glodell’s opus, Bellflower: the sound (mainly the sound design) and the photography (notably the Coatwolf Model II).

The Sound:
The sound design of Bellflower is some of the most evocative I have experienced in some time, the kind of aural presence that stimulates emotions and feelings quite independent from your conscious self. A shout. The rough rumble of fire. An engine screaming. A deep, primal growl that grows a wrath in you, or a fear, or a profound discomfort that percolates inside you like an acid, surprising you. It’s like when the doctor raps on your knee and stimulates a reflex that, try as you might, you cannot suppress.

The Photography:
Evan Glodell’s colossus, dubbed the Coatwolf Model II, is as close to a magic wand as a filmmaker is going to find. When the trailer first aired, my little brother DC and I puzzled over the curiously odd way each scene looked. What was happening? How could it be? We then stumbled upon the Model II, which only sparked more questions. How could the Model II exist? What made it work? But it wasn’t until today, after I had time to digest the film and was actually recalling it after the fact that I realized the true magic of Glodell’s beast. What I perceived as unique and new in the moment had somehow shapeshifted in the night, somehow become something altogether different than it had been the day before. The images generated by the Model II are surreal, model-esque at times, and once the mind has a chance to process these images as memories, both the images themselves along with the happenings of a scene begin to seem mythic, a monstrous fairy tale that seems as mysterious and enthralling as it did when all I had to go on was a sequence of Glodell getting in the Medusa (you’ll see) and disappearing in a fog of dust. Even now, as I recall a scene, or a shot, or even a color, I am confused and drawn to this quality. I am afraid for you, Glodell, afraid that a mob is going to come for you in the night to try you for witchcraft or something.

In all seriousness, Bellflower is a film that pulls you in, throttles you at times, but will not let you go. In fact, its grip seems only to tighten with time.

26 September 2011

Bellflower

directed by Evan Glodell

Evan Glodell’s filmic debut is a scorcher, a bruiser and an ass kicker all rolled into one and exploded onto the screen like a wreckish poem. I will not get into too much plot tedium, but the film revolves around a love story between a boy and girl, and the violent, flamethrowery anticipation of an apocalypse. Glodell’s film evokes a feeling, an elemental urge more than anything, and his custom camera called the Coatwolf Model II (check out this Frankenstein) manages to deliver something visually new to the tradition of indie film. Those who will say things like “this falls outside the margins of what we call independent film” seem to have amnesia about what independent film actually means. This is the intensity, the confusion and the fury of Easy Rider, Two-Lane Blacktop and Mad Max, revised, updated and rebuilt by a frustrated Gen Y lost boy. And like the latter, Glodell’s most obvious and referenced filmic influence, Bellflower growls with a darkness that won’t succumb to mere infidelity or violence. Those elements exist, but Glodell succeeds in refusing to name the rage or the fear, refusing to pin it to something like less competent filmmakers. Bellflower is like the filmic equivalent of listening to Titus Andronicus, a glimpse of the hearts of young men my age. The film does get out of control at times, but the scales are tipped massively in favor of Glodell and his amazing director of photography, Joel Hodge. Hodge is a madman, and the result is a film that takes your breath away with beauty and, if all else fails, a punch in the gut. And the soundtrack slash score is just incredible… Brafuckingvo, Jonathin Keevil and Kevin MacLeod! See this film, and see it on the big screen. It is a true blue, bonafide film in every sense of the word, a breath of fresh air and a choke hold all at once.

19 September 2011

Drive


Fans of film have long known that Nicolas Winding Refn has enormous talent as a director. In fact, Refn’s downfall more often than not tends to revolve around his storytelling. His gangster film Pusher was a great debut, and though Fear X bankrupted his film company, it was another promising addition to his resume. Refn got stuck in a rut with Pusher II and III, but his films have grown stronger as his plots have quietly become more and more minimal. Bronson was not much more than a series of scenes hung on a larger than life persona, and in many ways it worked. Valhalla Rising hardly had any plot, and with Drive, Refn has hit his stride in a hypnotically wonderful way. Like Monte Hellman and Walter Hill before him, Refn derives his main character’s name from his essence, and Ryan Gosling is perfect as Driver, the quiet, isolated stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway wheel man in LA. His life finds a direction of sorts when he befriends the lovely Irene (Carey Mulligan is brilliant) and her son. As with all things film, the wrench in the works comes in the form of Irene’s fuck up husband, loosed from the joint indebted to a group of scumbags who want their pound of flesh. It is noteworthy that Drive is first time Refn hasn’t penned the film he directed, the pared down story in this case written by tepid talent Hossein Amini (who has done nothing remarkable). In fact, this script alone isn’t particularly good, but the actors and directing make it phenomenal. The soundtrack is as gorgeous as the cinematography, and whoever the hell’s idea it was to give the film semi sleazy, 80s style, hot pink title credits imposed over a stunning LA nighttime skyline was a friggin genius! Drive is a total package of taught, stripped down filmic storytelling disguised as a genre film, and like the (dare I say it) Two-Lane Blacktops of the world, the film becomes almost mythic in its visceral, cosmic universality. If this film were to be made 25 years ago, Driver would have most definitely been played by Charles Bronson, and Ryan Gosling lives up to that kind of comparison. Believe the hype, people, and strap into the nearest theatre seat for this gem, because it needs to be seen on the big screen.
Note: Ku effing dos to Albert Brooks, who makes me feel all kinds of uncomfortable as ex-producer and general source of fear Bernie Rose. You were scarier than Ron Perlman, Mr. Brooks, and that’s a tremendous feat in itself!

10 September 2011

Rubber

directed by Quentin Dupieux

Quentin Dupieux is an audiophile at heart (he crafts techno music as Mr. Oizo) and it shows in his lampooning of Hollywood, horror, and film in general, the wonderfully low key and entertaining Rubber. And anyone who has watched this film (regardless of how much you loved or hated it) cannot argue with the fact that both the soundtrack and the sound design are spectacular, from the wonderfully retro beats that reminded me a bit of Electroma, to the fantastic rumble of Robert as he telepathically wreaks havoc. Oh, maybe I should back up- Rubber tells the story of Robert, an abandoned tire (that’s right, you read that correctly) that awakens in the desert to find that he has telepathic powers. His journey of discovery and mayhem is viewed from afar by a group of captive moviegoers who are made to watch through binoculars and camp out in the desert in order to find out what happens next. Perhaps I have said too much, but please don’t let this scattershot synopsis deter those of you who haven’t watched this charming little piece of trashy film fun. I had the pleasure (or misfortune) of watching this film in an empty auditorium at my local hipster haunt slash “art” theatre (which is garnering many points from me as they are finally going to screen Bellflower), and it was a blast. And come on, anything with Wings Hauser automatically moves up the quality ladder by virtue of his presence. The film begins in a theatre of the absurd kind of way, and ends with a killer’s gaze fixed quite literally on Hollywood, and in between is a minimalist plot helped by fine acting and wonderful cinematography (mad props, QD). Rubber is one of my new campy favorites.

08 September 2011

The Guard

directed by John Michael McDonagh

John Michael McDonagh has crafted a rare, though inconsistent, treat in the very funny film, The Guard. Starring a magnificent Brendan Gleeson, reliable Mark Strong and a very Cheadly Don Cheadle, The Guard tells the story of a drug caper gone wrong through the crossed wires of two very different cultures. I’m not going to compare this film to McDonagh’s bro’s film, In Bruges (though it seems to hit many of the same notes), but I will say that fans of such films will find themselves quite satisfied. It’s a tricky trick to walk the line the way films like this do, and occasionally it stumbles, as nearly all do, but it makes up for it in a whole package sense that leaves you feeling somehow warm and fuzzy, if such a thing were possible. The racism, the knowing, insider judgment (such as the case between the westerners and those from Dublin), the false conclusions, the pseudophilosophical criminal element, these plot ingredients have become the blues chords of the crimedy (crime + comedy). That’s right, y’all just witnessed the birth of a new term! And I would like 25p every time it is used (since the American dollar has gone to pot). What matters, however, is how each filmmaker plays those chords, and let’s just say that McDonagh is still learning, and I am excited to be there when he really finds his sound.