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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Aug. 5, 2011 | 9:14 AM

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At the KCRW “Matt’s Movies” screening of Bellflower, host Matt Holzman praised writer/director Evan Glodell for his singular vision.  He continued to heap praise on Glodell, all but assuring the audience that the filmmaker was about to become the Next Big Thing, and that we all would be able to say we knew him when.  Such speculation on Glodell’s future success misses the point.  What sets Bellflower apart is the way it epitomizes true independence.  This is a film that Hollywood wouldn’t touch with a fifty foot flame thrower, and if the finished product isn’t quite as compelling as the film’s back story, it’s still a work that deserves to be seen.

Without giving too much away, Bellflower is a post-apocalyptic film that may or may not be missing an apocalypse.  Opening with some jarring pre-credit glimpses of the nightmare to come, the action seems to shift back to a normal pick- up scene in a bar.  Except the bar has about as much dirt and dust as an old west saloon, and Glodell’s idea of a meet-cute involves our two romantic leads eating live crickets.

As with a lot of Sundance anointed post Tarantino indie films, Bellflower is often about other films as often as it’s about itself.  What sets it part in this regard is the genre it chooses to riff on (Post-apocalyptic cinema a la Mad Max), and the lengths to which Glodell and company went to make this homage come to life.  The film was shot in Ventura in 2008, with more money going towards their post-apocalyptic car Medusa than to food and lodging for the cast and crew.  After 2 1/2 years in editing, the film made it’s way into the world via selection to the 2011 editions of Sundance and SXSW

Glodell’s boldest conceit in Bellflower is to take the dissolution and aftermath of a romantic relationship to literal apocalyptic levels.  Whether or not these events are real or imagined is beside the point.  The film succeeds in creating an aura of desolation and despair, from it’s empty landscapes to the sudden eruptions of violence in it’s characters.

The film has plenty of problems.  Glodell chooses to employ a flashback structure that’s not always coherent.  The film might make more sense on repeat viewings, but there are moments when viewers may fins themselves disoriented.  A bigger problem lies in the clash between the characters laid back attitudes and their passion to go Beyond Thunderdome.  Glodell and crew went to great and dangerous lengths to create actual working instruments of destruction, it’s a bit hard to believe at times that these hipsters would go to the same lengths just because they’ve worn out their VHS of Mad Max.

Still, the universe the film creates sticks with you.  Filled with strong performances across the board (Glodell and his cricket eating better Jessie Wiseman in particular), and some genuine sweetness mixed in amid the chaos, Bellflower offers a blend of love and hell that’s all it’s own.

Bellflower opens Friday, August 5th at the NuArt Theatre in West Los Angeles.  Evan Glodell and assorted cast and crew screenings will be present for discussion at the 7:30 screenings Friday-Sunday.  Medusa the car will also be present, so flame retardant clothing might be advisable.

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