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Review: Evan Glodell’s "Bellflower"

A striking debut suspended between low-key, Sundance relationship drama and hyper-saturated, ’70s-style grindhouser.

In Bellflower, the screen is drenched with smeary yellow-orange hues evocative of a feverish world—Southern California as seen by a pair of thirtysomething Wisconsian slackers—continually splashed by its denizens' hormonal juices. Lit like a sun-stroked trance and composed in frame-crumbling partial focus, it’s a world ready for an apocalypse, which the characters await eagerly: Steam-punk warriors in their own minds, gearheads Woodrow (director-writer-editor Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) dedicate themselves to turning San Fernando Valley into Thunderdome, toting homemade flamethrowers and tricking out their Buick into a replica of Mad Max's metallic leviathans. Stunted macho fantasies collide with reality as fellow joyriders Milly (Jessie Wiseman) and Courtney (Rebekah Brandes) enter the picture to simultaneously expand and threaten the male protagonists’ sheltered territory with the promise of romance and heartbreak. Machines roar as relationships collapse, motor oil and blood flow. Suspended between a low-key Sundance drama and a hyper-saturated hotrod grindhouser from 1976, Glodell's resourceful debut is especially striking in its grungy balance of romanticism and nihilism and sophistication and rawness, expressed as a procession of increasingly combustible private Armageddons. The quotidian throbs with unruliness: People drive across state lines on amorous whims, shape their longings and nightmares with pop iconography (The Road Warrior's Lord Humongous is the deity of choice here), and respond to doomed affairs with literally incendiary force. An escalating reliance on repetitive glowering jostles and facilely disorienting temporal jolts mars Bellflower's closing stretch, though nothing dulls Glodell's hungry eye. A rediscovery of the effect grime can have on handmade lenses, a wart-riddled farce about desert lizards dreaming about being dragons, and a call for "some better images" in our heads, his film jabs a welcome dose of madness into the arm of independent cinema.

Loved it. Brilliant. Tyler Dawson is awesome.

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