Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo (dir. Pablo D'Stair, 2015)

The indefatigable Pablo D'Stair - tireless as both a filmmaker and a promoter of his work - is coming back at ya with his latest DIY experimental art-house feature, Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo. And this one, folks, is mad funny. While it is is true that D'Stair's calculated minimalist style has driven some critics and viewers out of their ever-living minds, and that this new film is as relentlessly methodological as anything he's done, there's no denying that the dialogue here hits and sustains a bright satirical tone, to the point where D'Stair is drawing some comparisons to Woody Allen.

Certainly MMT-P (I'm not typing that again) is as culture-soaked as Allen's Manhattan. The shout-outs are, if you are on the right wavelength, irresistible - Hjalmar Soderberg's Doctor Glas, you go, Pablo! - and if not, they will probably strike you as the worst sort of preening. (And I'm guessing then that you don't like Woody either.)

D'Stair, taking the lead under his acting pseudonym Carlyle Edwards, plays a young gadabout, Victor d'Entrement, who has persistent visions of setting the literary world on fire even though it's not clear that he's written more than a page here and there. He has come up with the perfect title for his next book - some might beg to differ - which happens to be the same as that of the movie we're watching, and which is a reference to a long-unreleased Bob Dylan "Basement Tapes" cover of John Lee Hooker's song "Tupelo Blues." But what goes with this title? Of that Victor is unsure, so he engages in a series of tete-a-tetes over a lengthy period, mostly with fellow writers, to try to free-associate his way to some appropriate content.

If the dialogue is a smidge Woody-esque, the cinematic manner is more than a smidge middle-period Godard, unsmilingly analytical. D'Stair, shooting in (washed-out smudgy) color this time, covers every scene from two unbudging angles (he will never claim a chapter in a history of camera movement). His roundelay of visits begins and ends with actress Helen Bonaparte, familiar from other D'Stair outings as the voice of cynical reason, and proceeds through nine other individuals, who are allotted four or five tiny scenelets apiece. Each of these snippets ends in a blackout (more like a sepia-out, really) with a couple of seconds pause before the next one. It is interesting just how well the rigorous format enhances the comical effect of the characters' sometimes inane, sometimes surprisingly sharp observations.

Poor Victor is a big-time noodge whom it is rather shocking to find having any friends at all, but just about everyone in the film seems narcissistic and self-absorbed, so maybe his alarmingly high annoyance level doesn't fully register. Well, on the audience it does but we don't really count, not being able to burst through the screen a la The Purple Rose of Cairo or Sherlock Jr. and tell Victor to get a grip, already. It would be fun to do, but even without that opportunity, the movie's still a kick. Watch it for free here:

Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo

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