Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Reality Show

OMG!OMG!OMG! Cover girl/Cover boy Atsuko Okatsuka & Cory Zachariah herald the publication of my review of Pearblossom Hwy! Here's a taste: 

"LA filmmaker's Mike Ott's last movie—LiTTLEROCK (2010) was a surprise smash in indie terms, racking up the kewpie dolls at LA's AFI Fest, indie fests in Boston, Reykjavik, and Montreal and the Independent Spirit and Gotham Awards—the latter included a limited commercial theatrical run in NYC. Eventually the moody low-budget feature was picked up for DVD distribution by Kino Lorber and instant streaming on Netflix.

That's a helluva act to follow, and expectations have been riding high for Ott's follow-up, Pearblossom Hwy, which had its North American debut at the AFI Fest in November and is currently making the rounds of the festival circuit. A sequel of sorts, Pearblossom seems to pick up with the two main characters of LiTTLEROCK—Japanese tourist Atsuko/Anna and SoCal white-trash stoner Cory—a couple of years down the line, but still stranded in the buttcrack of the Antelope Valley.

At least Cory seems to be the same character—though he seemed to have a dad in the earlier movie—the latest hinges on a road trip to reintroduce him to the man he believes to be his biological father. Atsuko is now an immigrant reluctantly studying for her citizenship test, and has picked up considerably more English than the none she conspicuously spoke in LiTTLEROCK. Several of LiTTLEROCK's strong support cast—Roberto Sanchez for example—show up in other roles in Pearblossom.

Fans of LiTTLEROCK might find this slightly disorienting, but it's really just the first level of a complex and rewarding indeterminacy at the heart of Pearblossom's successful simultaneous embodiment of bleak alienation and heart-rending humanism. Not to mention a healthy dose of hilarity—usually accompanying Cory's attempts to fend off or cope with the demands of the square world. His efforts to make something of his life are pretty much limited to compiling a rambling, drug-fueled audition tape for a reality show called The Young Life, and jamming with Cory & the Corrupt, his death metal band.

The deeper ambiguities of identity and authorship are embedded in Cory's recurring video diary sequences, where he talks about his history, family, sexuality, and ambitions, or recites fragmentary poems and song lyrics. These were generated when Ott gave the actor Cory Zacharia a camera and told him to start recording whatever was on his mind, which—over the course of several months—added up to over 100 entries. The cream of the crop are dispersed along the story arc, as the character Cory Lawler confronts his feelings about his domineering older brother and absent father, and explores his ambiguous sexual orientation—until close to the end, when the director's offscreen voice interrupts one of Cory's monologues to ask "Are you talking about your real Dad or talking about your Dad in the movie?..."

Read the rest of The Reality Show here, or pick up a hard copy at your local art gallery or Barnes & Noble.

Watch the Pearblossom Hwy trailer here,  and keep track of screenings at the Small Form Films website or on FB I guess.

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