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A focus on aimless urban twentysomethings

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Oscilloscope Laboratories

Blu-ray and DVD

If you pay attention to the flood of little movies that spew forth from smaller distributors every year, sifting through the shameless exploitation, self-impressed indies, and genre rehashes, every now and then you spot something new. Not just newly released, but actually new, something that feels like a page is turning somewhere, whether generationally or artistically or both—take Bellflower.

With its focus on aimless urban twentysomethings, Bellflower may seem to owe a little something to the so-called mumblecore school, although it brings to mind Tony Scott (West Coast, garish, violent) more than mumblecore’s secret avatar, Woody Allen (East Coast, talky, neurotic). Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a mumblecore protagonist building a flamethrower. That’s what affectless new-to-Southern California Midwesterner Woodrow (writer/director Evan Glodell) is up to, though, along with bro-from-back-home Aiden (Tyler Dawson). Thanks to the notion that the world is falling apart, a shared obsession with The Road Warrior, and seemingly little else to do, they have plenty of time to tinker and fantasize about ruling the post-apocalyptic wastes. When Woodrow meets Milly (the pugnacious Jessie Wiseman)—while competing in a live-cricket-eating contest in a dive-y bar, no less—their fall into folie à deux sidelines Woodrow’s bromance with Aiden. Aiden occupies himself by building the ultimate road-warrior vehicle—a flame-belching street rod—while Woodrow’s relationship with Milly takes some unfortunate real-world turns. Bellflower builds to a combustible situation (hello: flamethrower) and does not disappoint in explosiveness.

Made by a crew of neophyte filmmakers on a tiny budget—much of which purportedly went into building the car—Bellflower bears few of the hallmarks of the hand-rolled project. While at least one online wag has dismissed Joel Hodge’s cinematography as mere Hipstamatic for the screen, the saturated colors and distressed filtering enliven the sunbaked side streets and crappy apartments. (The editing, credited to four people, including Glodell and Hodge, is also unusually sharp.) And while it might be tempting for some viewers to find these “dude”-spouting, permanently underemployed characters faintly ridiculous, there’s no more self-consciousness in these performances than there is in the characters themselves. The stakes here, as over the top as they may seem, play themselves out in a way that the film earns. Most of all, in watching Bellflower it feels like you’re watching a new type of character making its way to the screen, emissaries from a generation with new priorities and a new way of relating to the world, even if they end up getting caught in some of the same old gears. It’s a heady experience.

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