Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Wow, here's an interesting twist on the (admittedly loosely defined) mumblecore concept: lightly guided, improvisatory performances, encased in an almost transparent but carefully engineered formal structure. Frank V. Ross, whose four earlier features I haven't seen, tells a story that is dramatically charged but fragmented by elisions: a young man with a dead-end job (Anthony Baker), in some kind of intense relationship with his male roommate (Danny Rhodes), arranges meetings with a series of women, one of whom (Alexi Wasser) gradually emerges as a potential partner. Story connections are not underlined: it's possible that a second viewing would unearth more clues to the workings of this mysterious triangle. What is underlined is a system of stylistic coups that create emotional harmonics outside the story. Ross's formal ideas are almost direct address to the audience, asking us to reformulate our feelings or to assume a commentative position on events. Example: the protagonist opens the refrigerator door, and an egg rolls to the edge of the shelf and stops; much later in the film, his roommate opens the same door, and the egg breaks on the floor. Or: in one of a series of scenes in which the protagonist meets different women in restaurants, Ross surprisingly switches his attention to another couple in the room, who take over the movie with their conversation until the end of the scene, when they are never seen again. Or: on her rounds as a delivery person for a FedEx-like company, the woman is mysteriously menaced by a passing car whose close approach to her is heighted with editing and soundtrack manipulation, though the incident has no consequences. The suggestion of incipient violence in this last example is not isolated: unsettling incidents rend the fabric of mundane life from the first scene to the odd ending, which both makes urgent demands on our empathy and enforces a comic distance. I'm still not sure about how to respond to that ending, but, like so many other moods that the film engenders, the overtones of violence are largely perpendicular to story and character, existing in a philosophical fourth dimension that Ross creates purely through style. Audrey's mumbly surfaces conceal, at the least, a director of great ambition and unusual virtues. The film screens at the new reRun Theater in DUMBO through Thursday, July 29.