A woman struggling with a number of emotional demons tries to make sense of her life in this independent drama from writer and director Ry Russo-Young. Shelly Brown (Stella Schnabel) is the 23-year-old daughter of a woman with a long history of mental illness. Shelly has unfortunately inherited some of her mother’s instability, and the narrative follows her after she’s released from a brief stay in a mental hospital. Shelly dreams of a career as an actress, but at auditions she delivers readings that are intense enough to scare off most casting directors. Shelly wants to bond with other young women in the arts, but her paranoia and multiple insecurities make her a difficult friend at best and few of her peers are willing to bother. And while Shelly thinks she’s ready for a relationship, the manner in which she approaches men tends to result in rejections or one-night stands. Continue reading Ry Russo-Young – You Won’t Miss Me (2009)
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely is the wildly imaginative and unexpected second feature from US indie director Josephine Decker. The film is the creepy, erotic tale of married man Akin (Joe Swanberg) who takes a summer season job working as a ranch hand on a remote Kentucky cattle ranch.
Akin craves isolation and here he has only the deranged farmer and his strange, earthy daughter for company. While he can’t make sense of their world – full of inappropriate urges and simmering menace and lust – it’s also clear that he’s not so straightforward; he harbours secrets back at home. Continue reading Josephine Decker – Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014)
David Lowery wrote:
What is it about the sexualization of English professors that irks me so? I think of the cliche of the sturdy, masculine educator bewitching his female pupils with silver-tongued erudition on the works of Percy and D.H Lawrence and I wonder: what of their poor colleagues, the mathematics professors? Can’t fractal equations be as erotically stimulating as the breakdown of Pyrrhic verse? The answer, as any English major knows, is not likely-there’s little that can so easily compound the psychological dynamics between teacher and student like the aphrodisiacal qualities of language-but it was nonetheless a gust of fresh air to see Lena Dunham so precisely pierce this stereotype in her debut feature, Creative Nonfiction. Dunham stars in the film as Ella, a freshman student at an unnamed Midwestern college, who is working on a screenplay for a creative writing class that, in its early stages, could be synopsized by at least three sentences of this very paragraph. Continue reading Lena Dunham – Creative Nonfiction (2009)
First-time director Ronald Bronstein describes his extraordinary film as “a rotten egg lobbed with spazmo aim at the spotless surface of the silver screen.” Be forewarned: audience response has been intensely divided. Frownland has garnered both passionate raves and scathing denunciation, while festival screenings have ended in screaming matches between patrons. It is strong stuff, yes, but none of its notorious reputation does justice to its savage dark humor, emotional heft and stylistic audacity. Above all else, Frownland is a pitch-black character study of Keith Sontag (Dore Mann), a neurotic, manipulative, stridently unlovable New Yorker whose pitiless roommate aptly describes him, to his face, as “a burbling troll in his underwear.” With the most basic elements of human communication a struggle, Keith lurches his way through an uncaring city, attempting to aid a suicidal friend, evict his unctuous roommate, and simply attain some measure of self-respect. An apoplectic seizure of blind rage, sorrow and bleating humor…Frownland. – Factory 25 Continue reading Ronald Bronstein – Frownland (2007)
Jaded by the “incestuous, New York, socialite sh_t” that sells at prominent art galleries, Nate embarks on a quest for a more authentic brand of contemporary art. When a coked-up YouTube search leads to a music video from Delawarean Goth rappers Young Torture Killers, an Insane Clown Posse knock-off, Nate knows he’s found his subjects. He soon drags his friend-with-benefits Bernadette to rural Delaware to shoot the group playing in their parents’ basement. To “immerse himself” in the group’s culture and add an extra layer of realism to his work, Nate befriends the rappers and makes return trips to get to know them. But as his relationship with group develops, he becomes increasingly aware that, while you can take the boy out of the art world, you can’t take the art world out of the boy. Continue reading Michael M. Bilandic – Hellaware (2013)
A character study as well as a meditation on communication, creativity, and physical space, Take What You Can Carry is a picture of a young woman seen through the interiors she occupies and the company she keeps. A North American living abroad, Lilly aspires to shape an intimate and private place of her own while connecting to the world around her. When she receives a letter from home, it provides the conduit she needs to fuse her transient self with the person she’s always known herself to be. Continue reading Matthew Porterfield – Take What You Can Carry (2015)
“Everything about being indie is tied to not being black,” says Micah (Wyatt Cenac), half of the accidental kind-of couple whose one-day romance is chronicled in “Medicine for Melancholy.” He is making an observation — and also registering a complaint — about the quasi-bohemian way of life he shares with Jo’ (Tracey Heggins), his temporary other half. It bothers Micah that their embrace of the folkways of urban hipsterism seems to require the suppression of their African-American identity.
But his words, which Jo’ doesn’t quite agree with, also suggest a degree of self-awareness, and self-questioning, on the part of Barry Jenkins, who wrote and directed this small, incisive film. Most recent movies about culturally savvy, affectless 20-somethings hooking up and being cool are very much tied to not being black. They are about diffident, underemployed white boys and the women who (sometimes inexplicably) go to bed with them. Continue reading Barry Jenkins – Medicine for Melancholy (2008)