From the omega to the alpha, from the hosing-up of a 90%-inflated baby-pool to its sad-lawn emptying, thank the prince of Hell and lightbringer Lucifer, or only Sony and Apple, for helping develop Team Picture and all the alternate American cinema not geared toward rec-room jerks, serial assessors, terminal hobbyists, '70s-apotheosisists, or the guy sitting next to me as I write this — unless of course the lot's up for getting onboard with Feelings and Life-Shit and abandoning Wednesdays spent working out where they presently stand with early-Oughts Scorsese.
Furthermore? It turns out there're other places for an American to shoot in aside from New York. In this sense alone, Team Picture stands like a beautiful fable of reconsideration.
Obviously film festivals are glutted with dispatches that originate from contiguous States. The vast number of these pictures barely dark their ink enough on a schematic index of world cinema relevance to warrant pause; traces of personality and worldview, the impress of philosophical or storytelling ideas — these things are mostly absent from those movies, and when the shots aren't "handheld" their color-timing barely registers much past the hue of steamed clams.
Now it was really rich, whenever Coppola would suggest his anticipation of these little devices inventing a new Orson Welles. (The machinery makes the man!) The interviewer would ask him which young filmmakers he admired and of course he'd say Wes Anderson and Darren Aronofsky... Even if you're not pigging out on "content" to fill the hole of your days I'd think you'd detect a note or two in the semiosphere of something different from movie-movies having been happening over the last couple years in American cinema. In short, the blood's back on the tracks, better instincts are starting to strangle the 'whimsical' per capita, and little indication of being bowled over by the films of Akira Kurosawa's getting much display.
One of the worst motivations for becoming a filmmaker is having wanted to become a filmmaker. I don't think you can make good films, wanting to make films. Even if I'm making a film now that's ostensibly about cinema or some filmmaker, what I'm really doing is fighting the light from my mother's closet at 7 on any cold school-morning from age 6 or 11. Neither Kentucker Audley, nor his fellow-Tennessean Harmony Korine, nor Audley's conspirator-in-NYC-lancing Lena Dunham make their movies out of anything but a need to make-non-evanescent the experiences more murderous than movie-memories, to capture the exposed-to things shaken in respective humors.
A little to wit: Louis Skorecki, one of the damnedest writers-about-film ever, these days does the best 'film writing' possible by not 'writing' very much of it at all — instead, is blog-embedding YouTube clips of the latest Bob Dylan performances, which seems about right to me. Seems just as worthy as typing: The color of the sky in Osaka...
Likewise Kentucker Audley understands that the important things 'are already there.' The color of the late-afternoon Memphis sky, the overgrown lawns in maybe-never need of mowing, the air whose thickness you gauge just from the lean and relent of cicadas' mass clicking. Miasmic air modifying light. Air too hot for lots of shirt-wearing.
A miracle the equipment worked. — And even when Amanda Harris tosses the blankets on the hotel room floor for a suddenly chastened Audley, there's a give-two-shits quality that says: "Never had use for this many sheets anyhow." Even the body language is hot — butterknife cruel.
It might do to draw attention here to the fact that, as luck will have these things, Audley's a better actor than Al Pacino. Here he is in the first episode of Joe Swanberg's web serial with Ronnie Bronstein, at around the 1m 20s mark —
BUTTERKNIFE 1: Plastic Hassle
Spout | MySpace Video
Like with the best performers, some immutable persona eddies the surface as shin-budging undercurrents inflect the 'consciousness' of the thing. A selected Kentuckerography: the smarmy standoffish'ness of the Butterknife porchsitter; his invocation of a sort of Slothrop's dæmon in Dustin Guy Defa's forthcoming Bad Fever; and the un-self-conscious bodily cool of the Audley turn in Pillowface by Lena Dunham — who, by the way, might be justifiably deemed Tribeca's answer to Luc Moullet. ("Luca Moullet," whatever.) In Team Picture diffidence and good manners preside. When his character David quits the job at the sporting-goods store owned by his hepped-up stepdad (Greg Gaston, in one of the picture's several spot-on characterizations — alongside Bill Baker's David's-dad in dungarees, that Arkansas kitchen, Chapultepec in Germantown, the living-room hanging-plant, and then some), Kentucker breaks the news by twice offering, "I enjoyed it," gets 'gracious,' 'congenial,' 'endearing,' and 'hilarious' across all at once, and the whole moment's right as rain.
The language runs in rivulets, branching around, not exactly evading, whatever's out there. You really have to see Team Picture to hear Audley's ear, but consider the following:
— David and his girlfriend:
"What're you doin'?"
"I'm leavin' for my art show."
"What time does it start?"
"It starts at six."
"That's early, i'n't it?"
"What is it, normal?"
"Yeah, it's normal."
— His housemate Eric (Timothy Morton), on borrowing an extension of garden-hose to fill the pool:
"Why don't you go next door and borrow one of theirs? They love to share."
— David introducing his song at a café open-mic:
"Hello everyone tonight, hello everyone tonight. It's probably not night, it's probably, uh, 7:30. It's pretty close to night." (Some girl at the earlier poets' open-mic waxes existential — "in françois, of course.")
— Eric yelling to David from the living-room:
"What are you doin'?"
"Um, I'm makin' some changes around my room."
— David's mom (Terry Hamilton) addresses her son after hearing he quit the sporting-goods shop:
"All of a sudden you don't like this job?"
"No, I always didn't like it."
Eric/Morton brings the action of the film to a close — it's time to empty that baby-pool and get off the lawn for good — with a near-Faulknerian flourish: "Thank God, because all this business talk was makin' me feel like a real business-talkin' man. ... We're gonna worry our future out."
And so the cycle that began with filling the pool, and proceeded through coaxing Sarah (Harris) to come stick her feet in it while sipping a Pabst (S: "Sounds enjoyable." D: "Well yeah, it's great. Do you uh, do you like, uh, enjoyment? There's actually room for, uh, more than one enjoyer."), ends in deflation and the girl gone off to Chicago. One last melody from troubadour Audley — "I came down with the perseverance. / The perseverance. / The perseverance." — and one final shot that transfigures the yard into a place of abstraction, ambivalence, nullity and renewal.
Such is the perseverance. I like Audley and I like his films because through them he's saying: "Will not serve." His pictures dispense with the bullshit to express experience and everything that's deeply felt, especially the dusk-truth of life as something sad, and beautiful, but mostly sad. I like how he's sharing the secret it's always pretty close to night.