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Low-budget Bellflower is an instant indie classic that’ll set you on fire

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“I'd seen movies about breakups, but I'd never seen anyone try to make a movie about what it's really like to have your heart broken,” first-time director Evan Glodell told The Village Voice. So, in order to do his little movie, he sold everything and spent some time living in an office instead of paying rent. The bet paid off.

Shot for a meager $17,000, Bellflower (named after the avenue in Los Angeles where the film was made) was a sensation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It is packaged in garbage but delivers gold, and will either horrify you or captivate you in the same way a heaping portion of psilocybin mushrooms and crank would: it is a crash landing after a non-stop emotional and visual 105-minute adrenaline rush.

Woodrow (Glodell) and best pal Aiden (Tyler Dawson) spend their time drinking, trying to get laid, and planning for the Apocalypse, after which their imaginary gang will freely roam the earth with the vehicles and weapons they themselves created. But that’s only the movie’s wrapping, filled with the kind of people you would try to avoid in real life. When they’re on the screen, though, you can’t keep your eyes off them. The end of the world turns into a love story; the love story turns into a Texas-bound road movie; and the car turns into a motorcycle. Gradually, passion destroys everything in its path, even though there is always a huge flame at the end of the tunnel.

Not only did Glodell direct this stunning debut like a seasoned pro, but he designed and built the Mad Max-inspired muscle cars you see: “Medusa,” a 1972 Buick Skylark complete with flamethrowers, surveillance cameras, smoke screens, and bar, making it look, according to one of the characters, like “a James Bond car for drunks.” Glodell is also responsible for the carry-on flame-thrower and even the unique cameras he used — a Silicon Imaging SI-2K Mini digital filled with vintage parts, bellows, and Russian lenses.

In his end-of-the-world madness, Glodell channels several master directors, but achieves a unique mix. He reminds me of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros both in the way he portrays how love (or sex) changes us mentally and physically and in the skilled way he handles violence. Even at its most repugnant Glodell’s violence is not meant to shock or entertain; its effectiveness rests in the fact that he’s always trying to make a point. He becomes David Lynch in his  use of symbolic, surreal, non-linear imagery, and John Hughes in his ability to make stupid people interesting. Special kudos to cinematographer Joel Hodge, who paints the screen with a yellowy-orange that makes you think of heat and fire. When the flames finally appear, the low budget was no impediment to an epic visual and aural feast.

At times the movie resembles a trailer, but it's original in the way it strategically chooses when and how to include scenes that move back and forth in time. This is no Memento or Pulp Fiction, but something else — the refreshing approach of a 31-year-old director with things to show and the ability to create, literally, stuff out of nothing.

Yes, there is a storyline, you know what’s going on. But this is not about the story or the characters, or even the actors, all newcomers perfect in their roles. Bellflower is about the ride. Just jump in, and let yourself go.

 

***1/2
Bellflower
Writ. and dir. Evan Glodell; feat. Evan Glodell, Tyler Dawson, Jessie Wiseman (R)
Opens Sept. 9 only at AMC Santikos Huebner 24

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