The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The Arriviste (2012)
I received an e-mail with a press kit recently from director Pascal Santschi regarding his new film The Arriviste, and he wanted to see if I'd take a look at it and write a review. You know me, I always love screeners and the chance to get the word out on some low-budget independent films, so I was ready to do it. Let's see how it went.
The Arriviste follows a guy named Nick who's trying to make ends meet in New York, getting his life back on track while on probation. His brother, a con artist and blackmailer, may have blackmailed the wrong people, and when he turns dead, the people he burned are looking to Nick for the information his brother was using to blackmail them. Nick wants to find his brother too, because he just discovered his brother named him as a beneficiary on a $350,000 life insurance policy-- money he can't collect on unless he can prove his brother is dead, which means finding the body. The problem is, will he find the body before these other unsavory characters get to him first?
I liked this. It felt like those 90s indie flicks with tons of intrigue and plot twists, small in scope, but with no shortage of moving parts to keep me interested-- I could almost imagine the main character played by Balthazar Getty if it'd been made by Miramax back then. Of course, this was made on a much smaller budget-- $9,500 according to the press kit--, and had some rougher edges than those 90s indie gems, but I enjoyed the overall feel. There was a lot of really nice black humor, and Santschi took great advantage as cinematographer/director of his 35mm film stock to give us some very inspired shots. My two biggest complaints were one, that a couple scenes with the main character and a nurse didn't come off really well; and this set of scenes near the end involving a bum walking around the main character's apartment that really bogged down an area of the film where we just needed to get to the denouement, and would've been great instead played next to the credits as a sort of epilogue. Still though, for $9500, to only have a couple complaints is pretty good.
In an age where everyone is going to digital, for Santschi to work with 35mm, especially as a no-budget film maker, was a bold choice. Reading the production notes about the shooting process, I think the commentary, if he ever chose to include one, might be more interesting than the film itself. Guerrilla style is one thing, but guerrilla style when loading 35mm film on a sunny street in New York City is another thing; or transporting 35mm reels via subway, which I can't even imagine doing. When I know a film had this much of a person's blood sweat and tears invested in it, it's nice to see an end product that, as I said, was perhaps a little rough around the edges, but still with a high attention to detail and very few shortcuts taken when a more difficult process might yield a better result.
Because this was made guerrilla style, many of the sets aren't sets so much as people's apartments. It gives the film, especially the way it was shot, a claustrophobic feel, which might be off-putting to some. For me, it's kind of the vibe I get when I think of any urban environment I've been to, especially those in the northeastern United States. Just not a lot of room to move around or do anything. Then you get someone in broad daylight unloading a body from the back of an SUV, or a character waking up on the street after spending the night there, and it adds to that black humor, the idea that all these people are around, but they won't think anything of a dead body in the back of an SUV or a person lying unconscious on the sidewalk.
This was a first here at the DTVC, the screener I was sent had "Direct to Video Connoisseur" pop up from time to time on the screen, I'm assuming to protect against me or someone else with a screener making copies. Of course, here's me, looking at a measure taken by a film maker to protect his project that is very dear to him, and I'm like "sweet! It says 'Direct to Video Connoisseur!" (It was pretty cool though.)
Eamon Speer played Nick, the main character. He wore a hoodie and baggy jeans, a look I rocked somewhat back in college ten years ago. Though he wasn't very Balthazar Getty, the character definitely was-- though had he been played by Balthazar Getty, I'd see him in bowling shirts instead. With the baggy jeans, hoodie, and facial hair, he looked kind of like the potential baby daddy on a Maury episode in his everyday life-- on the show he'd be wearing an oversized Van Heusen button-up, and dark jeans without the frayed bottoms, all items he picked up a day before at TJ Maxx. It definitely fits with guerrilla film making, trying to make Speer looks as inconspicuous as possible, though if I saw someone following him with a movie camera, based on his clothes, I'd be expecting him to pull out a skateboard and make a viral video, so I'd probably stick around to see what happens.
Look at that screenshot below. That's the cast displayed at the beginning of the movie. Hmm... I don't know, if I'm an actor and I just did this no-budget film for very little money, I get my friends together to watch it with me so I can show them my part, the cast's names start popping up on the screen, and there's mine, upside-down. I think I'd be a little disappointed. Does SAG even allow that? Or does it not matter as long as it's right-side-up in the end credits? Even so, I feel like you gotta give the cast a little more run than their names upside-down or as the two legs of a 45-45-90 triangle.
Finally, this film has a fair amount of overdubbing, but I couldn't help but notice that the voice of the police detective sounded suspiciously like character actor Jack McGee. I have to imagine McGee would've cost more than this film's budget for a day's worth of readings, but it was still funny how close he sounded. Had this been made by Miramax in the 90s, the detective part probably wouldn't have been played by McGee-- he wasn't very indie, still isn't I guess-- but it would've been sweet if he had if they'd made it. Jack McGee playing in scenes opposite Balthazar Getty? Al Pacino and Robert De Niro eat your heart out.
This will be available for purchase on March 28th, and you can get it from their website (http://www.thearriviste.com/movie/thearriviste.html). Another first at the DTVC: no imdb page, at least not one I could find when I looked it up. Now that's guerrilla for you.
For more info: http://www.thearriviste.com/movie/thearriviste.html