Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Submission deadlines aside, why was this 2012 film not in any of the major American festivals? Did things only start picking up full-steam, amazing-lineup-wise, in 2013 – at Sundance, SXSW, La Di Da, BAMcinemaFest?

Theodore Collatos is indisputably one of the "new faces of independent film" — I say so. And others will too, if they see this film, along with his two succeeding shorts which are mercifully viewable at NoBudge (Berlin Day to Night and Adam and Joel). We're in the era where the film magazines commission writers to document "how they felt" about the latest festival films (usually 60 words a shot) and to pen extended considerations on the biggies of Hollywood-independent cinema (Linklater, WA and PTA, LvT, Woody Allen). Devoted cinephiles now swap aesthetic samizdat with each other in outlets diverse as tweets, private emails, Gchat, texts, and FB messages. The new way of sharing must-sees-you-might-not-have-heard-of, except, instead of VHS dupes or DVD burns, we trade streaming links caught in the uncurated mire of this-and-that Platform. You can watch Teddy Collatos's Dipso at Fandor.

The naturalism of the acting in Dipso makes the picture an apt complement with Tim Sutton's recent Memphis, discussed in the previous post. Its title promises explosion, and we get it; in a current American indie-scene wrought with narrative-lines of slow-budge cataclysm, Dipso is too exciting and intelligent to induce quarrel with back-to-the-beginning, no-one-wins shit. There's alcohol but this isn't the movie-alcoholic's journey to- or fro- redemption. Alcohol's not even the crutch. Charles Bukowski doesn't kick his girlfriend in the face. There's a stand-up show where the audience at first seems like the only fake note until it goes on and on and you realize Collatos's sense of duration and keen feel for the energy in a room in fact presents precisely the uncomfortable drape that descends on all crowd situations where tides turn on some random jerk's flotsam-shout. À la Kaufman. The stand-up scene bends into total reality. (Notice I haven't used the word "fiction" yet. Triple-bill: Memphis, Joanna Arnow's i hate myself :), Dipso.)

It's the best movie about brotherhood since Brad Bischoff's Where the Buffalo Roam from last year (also on NoBudge) or Harmony Korine's Gummo. Also one of the only movies that portrays burglary from the point of view of the burglars, bungling, okay, but no more than most burglars are in actuality. The brother-burglars chance a bender while they're inside the rural Massachusetts summer-house that's a far cry from their own dining table, from the ramp in the back of the funeral home where the Shaw sons' grandfather's corpse lies barely attended and where they smoke cigs to launch the shaggy-robbery mission of the second half. All the way through this final sequence: Will they get caught or won't they? It's a simple piece of suspense-business, wholly missing from most small-indies, and there are simple, actual stakes for the main characters: who among them number not just Matthew Shaw in the role of Tommy but also the war in the Middle East, the 2010s class war, and the internal conflict that redraws the frontline of a man's ambition with every money disappointment and rebuke of longed love.


Friday, July 18, 2014


"Perfectly realized....." "An intimate epic....."?

The next step after Kentucker Audley's two Open Five films, Tim Sutton's Memphis (title both matter-of-fact and monumental) doubles down on geographical candor and conveys itself, barely episodic, with a rhythm in loping engagement with Memphis heat.

The images seem "made," "aesthetic," "pictorial," crafted by a definite author, but they are strong and not simply "pretty" or "arty" because they bind tensely the urban/exurban world (it's right to say that Memphis is a "city" but we need a broader conception of that word) with nature in discrete frames over and over.

What does the film "bring to mind"?

Eyes looking in the dark, anticipating, in Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady. It's the gaze of the musician Willis Earl Beal, and of a one-legged man in an old Dodge Buick Chrysler Plymouth, and of a heroic child on a freestyle bike, and of his mother and sister on foot, and they all provide the point-of-view. Theirs is the modern mythic, like Vanda's, Zita's, and Ventura's, the tense binding of the images still looser here than in Pedro Costa's In Vanda's Room and Colossal Youth, because more Memphian.

Willis Earl Beal?

A prolongation of glory.

Associate producer?

Morgan Jon Fox.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

L for Leisure

In publicity material the directors Lev Kalman and Whit Horn bill L for Leisure a comedy, but what's that phrase of Stephen Dedalus's? – "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."

L for Leisure a nightmare? Might depend on your demographic. As I see this sensual, sensorial, and psychodramatic work – one of the most exciting in the recent cinema – the nightmare is The Loss of the Innocence of the '90s – the decade when nostalgia moved to the cultural forefront as Content itself; the decade when a sense of progressiveness was pervasive within youth culture and first dates from the rise of Public Enemy, acid house, grunge, gangsta rap, and Britpop, then on through the New-Teen representations (shifting a trend born in the John Hughes movies of the '80s to the platform of syndicated television and the local Fox affiliates); the decade of the ascension of the Bill Clinton presidency; the decade when that progressive sense was itself an echo rooted, subconsciously, in the longing for the ideals and memoried set-pieces beamed out in all the insistent representations of the '60s; the decade that death-knelled with the witch-hunt over the blue dress (the decade's Altamont, which characterization alone says much about the decade) agitated by one Ken Starr, who wouldn't allow his daughter to dance with any of the Chads at Duke parties and who thereby ushered in the boogie-woogie of the New Schism that cut decisive rugs with the Florida recount and the fall of the towers.

L for Leisure unfolds in 1.37:1 16mm as ten grad-student vacations spread across ten "breaks" in '93 and '94 ("President's Day"; "Summer Break"; etc), all inflected with an idiom that sets character and locale in reverberations of '90s TV and Whit Stillman's first two features (in particular Metropolitan comes to mind, which itself played out in some indeterminate nether-era and whose arch dialogues are talked back to throughout L for Leisure – a film whose title we don't really know how to pronounce, but given this conversation I have some idea which dictionary key the filmmakers of Leisure prefer).

Period details are perfect, from the cut (and cutting) of the jeans to whatever those ridiculous hippie hemp ruck-hoodies are called, to the musings around "psychedelic sports" and biology/consciousness that tangentially touch Terence McKenna, the re-arise of Tim Leary, and the renewed interest in psychotropics at the apex of California-come-Mondo 2000. No smartphones in sight, but one beeper on Bene who laser-rays the shit out of bitches in "Future Wars"...

Which brings me to the presence of two notables: Bene Coopersmith, one of the best we've got, who anchored most of last year's short Person to Person, Dustin Guy Defa's masterpiece-to-date and another film that says as much about present-past as L for Leisure. Also: for one minute Mati Diop, the superb French actress and filmmaker who has become generously involved in co-productions like Denis' 35 rhums and Campos' Simon Killer, and whose own Mille soleils played to great acclaim at this years Art of the Real at the Film Society.

Last praise goes to John Atkinson, whose synth-pop soundtrack is some of the coolest shit in 2010s movies. I want all of these songs and I want them now, so I can stay in an L for Leisure day-daze through the summer and beyond: every film should be such a psychodrama and dream of the Ideal!