Monday, March 05, 2012

"Jess and Moss" is another "layered" rural about coming of age (or is it something more sinister?)

An experimental film from 2011 Sundance, “Jess+Moss”  (or “Jess and Moss”), directed and written by Clay Jeter, will be available from Strand Releasing (Home Video DVD) March 20, 2012. The film also is distributed by Baxter Brothers, with production companies Blood River, Liquid Crystal and Love Streams. Besides Sundance, the film has won awards and the Dallas and Tennessee festivals.

Jess (Sarah Hagan) and her young second cousin (about 12, Austin Vickers) spend a summer wandering the tobacco fields and lake country around Murray, Kentucky, not too far from the site of the New Madrid earthquake zone. They explore what looks like a ruined family frame house, with many artifacts (including a 78 rpm record player, and various enigmatic old-style cassette tapes and bizarre toys), as well as the abandoned buildings on a tobacco farm.

The film tells its back stories, introducing some other lost characters, in vignettes shot in various film stock with subdued hues and levels of detail. The film, then, seems to present an enigma as to what has happened to leave them stranded.  There is mention of an auto accident. Yet, I’m left wondering which possibility prevails.  If their parents and family died in the accident, why are there so few people populating the world that remains.  Are they survivors of some apocalypse?  Are they themselves in an afterlife?  I really couldn’t determine this from the evidence. 

I do something like this in one of my scripts.  The protagonist “wakes up” in some sort of institution, with an attractive companion, his screenplay, and an unusual computer hookup. He doesn’t know where he is: at a job interview, in a hospital, or in the afterlife? Through remote viewing, another friend can piece together the facts of his life (full color) as well as the fiction in the screenplay (black and white). The layered stories are shot on different kinds of film. The protagonist (that is based on me) has to relearn some tasks in a model world relevant to several historical periods, and earn the right to go to a “tribunal”, where he will gain access to the time span of his whole life, before he goes back to the world, that is bracing for some kind of apocalypse.  I guess if I’ve written something like this myself (I call it “Do Ask Do Tell”) I ought to be able to follow it in another film in a festival. Maybe I’m giving myself away, but writing up these little treatments helps me sharpen my own work. 

The official site is here.

Picture: Mine, from a flight to Dallas, I believe over western Kentucky, as in the film. 

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