Friday, February 22, 2008

Apart From That
Randy Walker & Jennifer Shainin

"It begins at a party, where the five principals are introduced in turn. They appear only vaguely familiar with each other, loosely linked by the neighborhood they inhabit. Some are of different ethnic types-a Native American road-striper, a Vietnamese banker and his adopted son-and in fact, one of the film's more satisfying qualities is its matter-of-fact portrait of a multicultural America. Yet far from unifying the narrative, this incident proves a departure point, with each of the plotlines subsequently unravelling like a ball of twine. We follow each character over the course of the subsequent 24 hours, and in the process, gain a sense of the complexity and contradictions of their everyday lives. At which point the film doesn't end, so much as merely stop. As befits something so apparently anti-narrative, the film displays a cumulative rather than linear power: a depth of feeling that comes from close observation and patient attention. "Evesdroppings," as the filmmakers put it."

-Shane Danielsen, Edinburgh International Film Festival.

To that I would add the following:

A cinematographic style that successfully balances formal, measured shots like this one (which bears a strong resemblance to a panoramic photograph by Scott Mcfarland or a video projection by Mark Lewis) with more kinetic, off-kilter scenes that reminded me of moving William Eggleston pictures, complete with saturated colour and subjective focus pulling.

An attention to the specific vernacular of Cascadia, that vague region encompassing everything from southern British Columbia to Northern California (the film is set somewhere in the vicinity of Munro, WA. by my guess.) The photographs of Shawn Records, similar in tone and content to the film, document this same region.

An assortment of wonderfully present actors, especially Alice Ellingson and Tony K. (Ties Me Up) Cladoosby (above), that manage to inhabit their difficult roles with grace and spontaneity. Cladoosby, in particular, is a sight for sore eyes; managing to make Leo (who could have been yet another Native American cipher, all message, no substance) funny, direct and utterly individual. Have a look at his 'actor's resume.' Nothing up the sleeve, as they say.

A consistently alienating, disconnected emotional tone to the proceedings, that gives way in the last fifteen minutes to a series of extremely subtle moments of spontaneous warmth and connection. Not a happy ending so much as a refusal to give in to despair.