Indie on Fire

Bellflower (November 15, 2011*)     5/5

Written & Directed by Evan Glodell (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Allow me to be blunt, Roger Ebert style.  I am undoubtedly in love with Bellflower.  It’s unlike anything I’ve seen for quite awhile, or will likely see again for years.  In terms of emotional association, such vivid memories arose of the first time I saw David Fincher’s Fight Club.  Is this a better film?  Probably not.  Will it win any major awards?  Absolutely not.  Is it one of those indie films that blows us away so unexpectedly that we immediately overrate it upon our first viewing?  Exactly right.  No, Bellflower is not a perfect film, but it is one I will treasure in this period of my life.  And isn’t that what movies are all about?  Evan Glodell’s first film will not be seen favorably by many, but for my own purposes, I consider it a creative tidal wave.  Or more appropriately, a time bomb that explodes when we least expect it.

Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are two childhood friends whose pilgrimage from Wisconsin to California has resulted not in employment, but of constant drinking and inventing.  The Mad Max-loving buddies spend their time making flamethrowers and and attatching them to muscle cars, so that just in case a global apocalypse occurs in the near future, their imaginary gang, Mother Medusa,” will be in complete control.  But soon, activity on Bellflower Street takes a complete detour.  Woodrow quickly falls in love with a fun young woman named Milly (Jessie Wiseman), failing to realize the harmful implications she could have on his impressionable heart and mind.  Woodrow and Aiden then find refuge in Milly’s social group, including her best friend, Courtney (Rebekah Brandes).  Soon, Woodrow becomes distracted from “the project,” and the fantasies of all involved collide, melding an cataclysm far more intense than any adolescent fantasy.

Glodell writes dialogue so naturalistic that you almost feel uncomfortable watching his character state it.  This is not a bad thing.  The purpose of this movie is to get in your face.  And when Glodell trumps up the visuals, the action on screen bursts into flame; it feels so vividly real.  In fact, Glodell basically custom-made his own camera, a digital contraption so sensitive to light and flare that you can’t keep your eyes off it.  It provides you an excuse to stare at the Sun.  Evan and friends also manufactured all the contraptions seen onscreen, and with a nothing-budget, were somehow able to make this movie and get it into Sundance.

The film has the style and smarts of early Tarantino, and never ceases to remind us that we are witnessing the origins of a real talent.  This is basically a love story, but as the tagline suggests, it has “apocalyptic stakes.”  Young manhood often comes with disillusionment and regret, which is summed up so knowingly in Bellflower.  Apocalyptic fantasy is the only way Woodrow and Aiden can fulfill the void in their lives, but is threatened as the more tangible fantasies of others interfere.  Woodrow is soon faced with real-life apocalypse, in the form of a destructive relationship.  Challenges to masculinity and rampant self-hatred ensue.  Although these are not expertly crafted characters, we root for Woodrow in the film’s fiery final act because we want him to escape the chaos; we want him to find the loyalty he has always had in his best friend.  It is all quite moving … and very, very awesome.

Keep Evan Glodell’s name in mind; I doubt it will simply fade away.  I know Bellflower won’t, at least from my own memory.  We’ll see how it holds up during a second viewing.  I’m gonna guess quite well.  It surely has the craziest, college-circuit vibe of any film this year, and it will find its loyal fans; not just us filmmakers in college.  There’s relatable stuff going on here, and I’d prefer to think we’re not the only ones who are just a bit insane.

*Video Release Date

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