Monday, April 03, 2006

Primer; My Date with Drew; Cavite

Primer (Fine Line/ThinkFilm, 2004, dir. wr. Shane Caruth, 77 min, PG-13) is a fascinating sci-fi film made for just $7K. Three attractive upper-middle-class young men (Aaron, Abe and Robert played by Shane Caruth, David Sullivan and Casey Gooden), usually overdressed, it seems, in white shirts and ties, contemplate with what to do with an accidental discovery of a time machine (it has to do with a fungus and argon gas), that they work with “secretly” in a public storage warehouse. They wonder how to sell it, or even whether to sell it when they could use it, say, to play the stock market or win lotteries. The dialogue is sharp and detailed and often conveys a lot more information that is typical in many smaller scripts. There are lots of clever little lines that foreshadow the bigger issues, like an early conversation about whether to have steak or Tacos for dinner. Later, the writing does deal cleverly with the time paradoxes, which are visually managed with changes in film saturation—I might have been tempted to use black-and-white instead. Family life is barely suggested in a few scenes, as if it were encapsulated and made invisible. The story suggests a certain paradox for me—how do I “sell” my own work?

My Date with Drew (2003, DEJ/Lucky Crow, dir. Jon Gunn and Brian Herzlinger, 90 min, PG, Website). First for a quote: “If you don’t take risks, you’ll have a wasted soul,” from Drew Barrymore, a child actress in The E.T. 27-year-old Brian Herzlinger wins $1100 in a game show, and spends it to win a date with (female) Drew Barrymore and to make the lowest budget feature film in history. He “borrows” a camcorder from a Circuit City store on a friend’s VISA card. Then he uses the chain of “degrees of separation” to approach Drew with the final success with a date in the Mexican Grille restaurant in New York City (most of the film is shot in L.A.) Along the way there are numerous fitness training and grooming sessions. Now here the movie sounds like lightning striking twice, accidentally mimicking The 40 Year-Old Virgin (Brian’s movie was made first). He asks some other female friends whether he should get his chest and even his arms waxed (remember John Travolta in Staying Alive?) and in one midpoint session they pull up his shirt and tease his body with tweezers (that you couldn’t get past the TSA). But his bod will survive such humiliations. Actually, his appearance is quite striking: his chin just a little thick, but with fitness training he can become super macho man, which may not be to his taste. After all, this movie is PG-13. A major part of the denouement of this movie is the setting up of his Internet domain (a process that I remember right after publishing my own books) and dealing with the DNS errors. He even has to burn a DVD at the last minute (a problem for me on the iMac) or find one that he gave out. The end of the movie is much happier than Everwood’s “A Moment in Manhattan.” There is something off-putting, however, about the likeable hero of a movie bragging about his poverty, inability to pay bills, and desperation to meet one queen.

A more recent film made for extremely low budget is 2005, Cavite (Magnolia/Truly Indie/Gorilla, dir. Neill Dala Llana, Ian Gamazo. A young Filipino man working as a security guard in San Diego gets a call from his family about his father's death. He flies home and at the airport gets an envelope passed to him. He is dared to commit a violent act at a church lest his mother and sister be killed. The film plays on "tainted fruits" ideology and on the idea that a man is responsible for protecting his family even if he does not have his own children.

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