Humiliation, sexual tension and a mysterious, knife-wielding possible maniac with a grocery sack over his head are the uninvited guests that join four young actor friends during a boozy weekend retreat at an isolated cabin in "Baghead," written and directed by "mumblecore" auteurs Jay and Mark Duplass (whose best-known previous film, "The Puffy Chair," screened in 2006 at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art).
While the Duplass Brothers were shooting their last feature film "The Puffy Chair," a crew member raised the question "what's the scariest thing you can ...
Rating: R for language, some sexual content and nudity
Length: 84 minutes
Released: June 13, 2008 Austin
Cast: Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig, Elise Muller, Jett Garner
Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Writer: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Alternately funny and scary, "Baghead" suggests that "The Blair Witch Project" may be as responsible for mumblecore as any of the self-consciously anti-commercial movies about slackerly artist types that usually are credited with jump-starting the trend in regional, no-budget, naturalistic filmmaking. (Kentucker Audley's "Team Picture" is the Memphis representation of the style.)
"There's four characters, there's four people, four actors -- what happens?" says someone in "Baghead," as the friends try to brainstorm a screenplay; the film itself seems improvised from that almost nonexistent premise.
"Baghead" satirizes the indie film scene even as it embodies the virtues (and drawbacks) of DIY moviemaking. The overactive, handheld camerawork establishes the project's digital video integrity, but the style is as showy and obtrusive as the CGI calisthenics found in something like "Wanted." The performances, however, are winning and convincing. Ross Patridge is the rugged "star" of the group; Steve Zissis is the insecure and overweight "funny" guy; mumblecore muse Greta Gerwig ("Hannah Takes the Stairs") is the young beauty attracting most of the male attention; and Elise Muller is the thirtysomething actress annoyed by her declining sexual status. The group dynamics keep "Baghead" interesting, even before the introduction of the intruder in the woods.
"Baghead" is playing at Malco's Studio on the Square.
-- John Beifuss, 529-2394