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Bellflower

Year: 2011
Production Co: Coatwolf Productions
Director: Evan Glodell
Producer: Evan Glodell
Writer: Evan Glodell
Cast: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman

This is the kind of film that makes me wonder why some people want to be film directors. That sounds like I'm being smarmy, but I'm honestly not. Maybe it's being a writer, but the only reason I can imagine anyone would want to be a director would be because they want to tell stories.

To me that's the most important reason for a film to exist and everything else – from sound to colour to 3D to CGI animation, are tools to do it, and the proof of that is the fact that after just a couple of years we stop noticing the newest whizz bang trickery and start asking whether the stories and characters are any good again.

Films seldom fall on their swords over any other aspect, and you can spend almost nothing on a film (Colin, Moon, Bad Taste) and your audience will forgive any budgetary constraints if you simply spin them a great yarn.

By contrast, it seems a lot of people want to get into filmmaking because they love the image and the experimentation it affords. In the case of Bellflower, it's a very successful art piece experimenting with the concept of image. It takes the lo-fi aesthetic to new depths (again, not a subjective criticism), to the extent where writer/director Evan Glodell switches between cameras and one of them appears to have had oil or grease splattered on the lens.

In that respect, Bellflower is a very successful movie. The picture isn't beautiful (nor is it supposed to be), and it's not grainy and gritty like that warzone handheld aesthetic that's still popular, but it has a dirty, greasy, street-spoiled quality that's all its own. We can presume Glodell made the film exactly the way he wanted and it's come out exactly as he designed.

But when it comes to storytelling, that's the problem. Bellflower is much more interested in designing an image than telling a story. There's certainly a premise, as two California dudes (whose speech is replete with Californian surfer/high school lingo to the extent that it grates) are building an arsenal to combat the coming apocalypse, all inspired by Mad Max and which includes a souped up muscle car and a homemade flamethrower.

Aside from that they're just existing in mostly directionless lives. Hero Woodrow (played by director Glodell) falls for a cute local girl, his friend kind of sort of moves in on a friend of hers, and together with the roommate of the hero's girlfriend, the whole band forms a grungy Beverly Hills 90210, all of them fighting with, shagging and bonding with each other.

The apocalypse-preparation subplot seems to be mere staging for how eternally immature and lost these two boys are – there's never an indication that it's a genre film where any apocalypse will actually arrive. And to make things even more difficult, the movie appears to either splinter into parallel stories or keeps jumping back forth in time. You're never sure which, so you never really know the story being told.

Glodell is a great designer and fans of Miranda July or David Lynch will like it, but maybe he should do art installations instead of movies. If you're asking for 90-120 minutes of my life, tell me something I don't know.

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