Continuing the recent trend of personal little mumblecore movies with an unusual hook (Cold Weather, Monogamy), Bellflower takes that concept and ratchets things up to eleven. Or possible twelve.
Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aidan (Tyler Dawson) are friends, who while lacking visible means of financial support delight in practically preparing for the end of the world. Mechanically gifted they design flamethrowers and a fire breathing smoke screening emitting super-car named Medusa. All the while conducting random experiments of questionable long term value like shooting a propane tank with a shotgun (turns out it explodes in a big way). Talented fellows they seem more like bored kids on the cusp of become adults than folks who actually believe there's a need to prepare for a coming Mad Max like world. One night while out drinking Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman) via a live cricket eating and falls for her - in a big way. In true hipster film fashion on their first date they cross state line in search of a meal at the worst possible restaurant Woodrow has ever seen. En route she's charmed by his demeanor and mad engineering skills that among other things have furnished his ride with an en suite whiskey dispenser ("it's like a James Bond car for drunks"). Several days and a case of food poisoning later they're back home and thick as thieves.
As oft happens paradise doesn't last forever. In parallel with their relationship ups and downs team Woodrow/Aidan complete work on their flamethrower apparatus and Medusa. When the breakup comes it creates a cinematic schism as alternate realities are explored. One featuring a berserk worst breakup Woodrow ever and a somewhat more mellow one. Reminding viewers that perhaps the cool boyfriend who builds flamethrowers in his spare time may in fact, as your mom tried to explain to you, not be the greatest life partner choice. Even if his car dispenses booze. Oh wait, actually, probably because of that as well...
The gritty yet artistic look of the film is definitely interesting to behold. The camera used for the picture was custom made for the shoot - which is one of many indications that the construction of cool stuff in the film is autobiographical. I sort of liked all the characters and their puttering around. However when things went super disturbing my interest began to wane. The raw intensity was impressive but thinking back I don't feel as though my mind could wrap itself around the narrative jump given what I'd seen about the characters previously. I feel that the big bloody quirk made the whole less interesting to me than if things had stayed at the initial more even keeled emotional level. Of course that's not what the film makers were going for and I respect them for driving balls out to what they were aiming for. Just didn't entirely work for me personally.
The press for Bellflower strongly features Glodell's quest to produce a truly functioning Medusa, flame thrower and the apocalyptic feel of the film. Even the SXSW intro involved a shout from the master of ceremonies about "are you ready to see some flamethrowers?!?" It's an effective hook that I'm sure managed to trick some manly men into seeing what is at its core a relationship drama. Confounding expectations is cool and all but I think in this case it's worth knowing you're not heading into an action movie. Word is that Glodell and his crew have some future plans for Medusa (which of course they built themselves and actually does shoot flames) for a series of more directly post end of the world themed films. I suspect I'll be easily lured back to try one of them as well.
The filmmaker's came out to SXSW in style parking Medusa (though slightly modified it seems since the film wrapped) outside the theater. Writer/director/star Evan Glodell and a good chunk of the cast were in attendance. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay for the Q&A having a tight next film connection. But I leave you with some snapshots taken before the screening started. Haven't been able to find a trailer for the film online as of yet - will update this post if I locate one.
|Evan Glodell introducing his film|
|Now, if there was only a way to tell if this car was the car named Medusa in the film?|