(Opens Aug 19 at the CineArts at Santana Row in San Jose and the Century 16 in Mountain View, the Landmark California in Berkeley, the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco and the Century Regency 6 in Marin County)
by Richard von Busack
I have several friends who shoot up propane tanks for fun, and I’ve never thought of that activity as heralding the end of the world. Covered with Sundance laurel wreaths as it is, Bellflower’s vision of Hell yawning below us had me yawning. It’s done in the Harmony Korine vein about suburban wastrels, hooking up, drinking beer, breaking up and angrily throwing things into the storm drains of the name sake city in the LA Basin.
Woodrow (director/mechanic Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are gearheads with a big budget for chrome and no visible means of support: they’re a pair of Wisconsin transplants to Southern California, and they haven’t lost their downiness yet. (Woodrow still wears sweater vests.) Both have dreams of emulating the post-apocalyptic road ragers from 1982’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. (Bellflower’s epigraph comes from a saying by that hockeymasked villain The Lord Humongous.)
No-good, two timing women interfere with this boyish dream of outfitting a muscle car with flame-throwing capability. The flame-thrower gets built (Glodell built it himself). But after a serious motorcycle accident, the film goes sideways into brain-damaged Lynchian fever dreams where you can’t tell revenge from revenge fantasies.
Bellflower has an unusual look, thanks to a skunk-worked camera wrought by Glodell that created the goldenrod visuals, making a blonde’s hair glow like electric fire, or giving the landscapes the hue of dead weeds in a liquor store parking lot. The smeary backgrounds and grease-halos seem mostly like an homage to the primitive video of julien donkey-boy (1999) with splattered motor oil on the lens as part of the atmosphere.
Take your gaze away from the photography and you’re left with the question: how is Bellflower different from most power-fantasies for young guys?
It is like watching Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, another movie that was mostly all promise of something better to come.
If Glodell gets someone else to write for him, someone who can differentiate his many characters and add some kind of wit, he might be worthy of the kind of praise that’s getting ladled on him. Bellflower isn’t aimlessly made, even if it’s about aimless people. There’s creativity here in the lines of the no-hopers, as in this blessing over a gift of birthday fruitcake: “I figure if I got you fruitcake now than I can go get you a real present at Christmas, when we’ll probably know each other better.”