Nothing like the dynamics of a dysfunctional family to provide for a plethora of opportunities regarding drama and/or comedy (or, more so, some combination of the two that usually runs in the vein of dark humor) in cinema; a familiar setting, due to its universality and its possibilities, and also the topic of writer/director Zach Clark’s Little Sister (co-written with frequent collaborator, Melodie Sisk), which provides itself plenty of chances to plumb the depths of familial dysfunction for drama and the personality quirks for comedy. However, the inclusion of an in-training nun as the protagonist skewers that familiarity and the expectations that come along with it.
A while back I covered Dipso, directed by Theodore Collatos, as a part of my Unsung Indies feature and, just yesterday, his newest feature - Tormenting the Hen - was spotlighted as our Kickstart Sunday pick for this week. I recently had the chance to partake in a bit of discussion with Collatos about his newest film, working with his longtime collaborator Matt Shaw and more.
It is remarkable, given the duration of Silk Tatters,“NEC SPE NEC METU”: Brigadoon (14 minutes), the sensory density Telaroli is able to achieve by layering sequence upon sequence from films previous on top of each other while their disembodied audios make entrances languidly and random. It can a bit overwhelming at times yet continuously mesmerizing, but even in the distorted imagery downpours there does appear to be some semblance of order operating underneath.
There are a number of aspects to the feature-length debut of Albert Birney and Jon Moses that can be seen (and should be seen) as impressive achievements in the realm of DIY creativity and execution; so many, in fact, that deciding upon the most crucial of these executions in terms of rendering the film an overall success is an impossible task as all of these imaginative facets are integral to the film’s overall charm and allure. The handmade sets, the creature costumes, the original music, the animation techniques, among others all coalesce into one of the more singular films to surface in the past decade (or so); one overloaded with imagination and fantasy.
Even though, most of the categorical aspects of the films differ in one way or another there does reside a main thread through all five of the films; there is a darkness within them, each one containing some pessimistic-slanted vision of the world (the grade of which varies but slanted still). We are ushered through a dystopian landscape where sleep isn’t the cousin of death but it’s identical twin to the audio of the incarcerated to the end of the world onto a demented game show incorrectly titled Everybody Dies! (because white kids get cookies while black kids get shoved into the abyss) before finally settling into the interpretive dance of motherhood downsides.
Khawaja and Puca have constructed a dense work, disheveled in its themes and structure seemingly about everything and nothing in particular all at the same time, and yet they have also created a work that is concurrently lightweight given its tone and sense of humor, a jovial jumble of carefree attitudes that cover the surface of a penetrating look at the therapeutic ability of creative expression and the fortifying nature of collaborative relationships.
As far as I can tell there is no easily distinguishable through-line of theme, no thought provocation, and/or contemplation prompts that necessitate a film of this structure outside of the potential it possesses as an inspiration for future avant-garde filmmakers; showing that the production of experimental cinema is always within reach, it is just as simple as filming some friends, some still-life and sporadically manipulating some images.
Goodbye Philippines seems reticent to build upon its aesthetical/thematic choice of projecting the memories of a man back onto the landscape of the world he has left behind; perhaps, it is a comment on the inability to move on, being stuck in limbo of mourning and moving forward but Goodbye Philippines can, at times, feel a bit one-note in its exploration. However, that one note is pleasing.
The film, a short clocking in at 13 minutes, unfurls like a photo album perusal as historical document and/or essay as stagnant frames capture the vacant landscapes of a once, bustling company town in the Cousins Inlet of British Columbia. The 16mm facade delighting in the convergence of vegetation that has reclaimed the abandoned buildings and desolate factories, gently swaying in the breezes blowing through the open lobbies as if in performance; unused window panes nothing more than frames for the persevering picturesque.
Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan’s enigmatic debut, For The Plasma, seemingly about everything and nothing all at the same time rests at the intersection of cerebral over-complication and tongue-in-cheek, lo-fi jaunt, all on a nearly non-existent indie budget. The film’s playful avoidance of categorization or its incessant need to avoid any normal, discernible narrative path will surely have viewers, either, reveling in the ambiguity of it all or steadily growing ever more exasperated by its opaque nature.
Michael DiBiasio’s The Videoblogs is a difficult to watch; not because it lacks the technical proficiency needed but because it deals directly with the subject of mental health and when I say directly, I mean head-on, face-to-face directly. It is because of this approach, this intimately direct approach, that the film can be somewhat uncomfortable at times as you might get the feeling that you are privy to what should be private moments.
A miscellany of genres presented with a potpourri of visual stylings, Momoko Andô’s 0.5mm emulsifies screwball comedy and affecting drama into one epic emotional traversing across generational divides. Entrance into the lives of these pensioners is reluctantly granted through stereotypes and book-cover judgments then coaxed via blackmail into living arraignments that, in turn, give way to complex character portraits of lonely men in the diminuendo of life, cast aside from society and left to wilt away in their homes.
People looking and/or expecting a plethora of extra features from the Criterion Collection on their newest Blu-ray release of Arthur Hiller’s The In-Laws might be fairly disappointed; not only in terms of quantity but maybe even in terms of quality. Outside of the audio commentary and the accompanying booklet, the supplements are a bit sparse although many may be content with the simple fact that there exists a Blu-ray edition of The In-Laws.
Actor/producer/writer/director/editor/[insert any other film production job title here] Frank Mosley has had a hand in number of films over the past couple of years in the American Independent scene, appearing in Upstream Color, Sabbatical, Some Beasts and Collective: Unconscious, just to name a few. His latest feature, Her Wilderness (which appeared on my Best Undistributed of 2015 list), has been released on Fandor; along with his debut, Hold, and his 2013 short film, Two Story, which he wrote with Lee Luna.
Setting, what is essentially, a buddy comedy within the timeline of the Civil War seems like a novel idea (and it is) but what makes Zachary Treitz and Kate Lyn Sheil’s film truly distinctive is their ability to blend a somber exploration of human inadequacies in and around the antics of the bumbling Brothers Mellon; where rejection is catalyst for bad decisions and one’s inability to connect with the world might lead them to join the Union Army.
Minimalist may be the sturdiest of descriptors for Mosley’s sophomore effort with dialogue sparse and connectivity between actions remaining faint and ill-defined. All possibilities of potential meanings/readings hold an embedded residence with the viewer which is true of most films, but even more so with Mosley’s since he leaves everything open to interpretation. All character motivations and development (even the interconnectivity of the characters themselves) are represented as merely vapors, dispersed over the course of the film.