Tuesday, March 3, 2015

BUZZARD's memorable oddities: character, movie, and filmmaker/actor, Joel Potrykus

If you caught indie filmmaker Joel Potrykus' earlier film, Ape, and saw its lead performance from actor Joshua Burge, you're one up on TrustMovies. I came to the new film, BUZZARD, as a virgin to the work of Mr. Potrykus and so was promptly blown-away by the bizarre Mr. Burge and the film in which he takes center stage. What a face this guy has! Every bit as strange and memorable as that of Julian Richings (from last week's oddity, Ejecta), Burge's is younger and a tad more handsome (in a strange way), and the actor uses his face very well, passing from loony to nasty, vulnerable to empty and finally into something quite frigh-tening. And yet this actor manages to hold us and make us somehow care.

Burge is helped considerably by the filmmaking skills -- mini-budget as they may be -- of Mr. Potrykus, shown at right. The writer/ director sticks his camera in Burge's fluid face and captures those features, large and handsome-grotesque, in their constant and amazing mobility. Burge plays Marty Jackitansky (he's White Russian, rather than Polish) a slacker/scam artist who works as a temp at some kind of bank, where his co-worker and friend (were this guy capable of actu-ally having a friend), Derek (shown at bottom and played by the filmmaker himself) have fun and do very little work. Marty's scams, minor and funny as they initially seem, grow larger and more dangerous as the movie unfolds. As does our non-hero, as well.

Yes, Marty is an anti-social asshole, but he is also a medically-challenged, problemed person, with whom we ever so gingerly begin to empathize. This empathy, which actor Burge allows us to feel despite his character's huge flaws, is what makes the movie more than mere caricature or deadpan humor. Burge, shown above and below, lets us enter the mind and soul of Marty and, hellish place that this is, also allows us to engage with him.

Along the way, we see our guy taken advantage of by an even-more-powerful scammer, and then hightail it off to Detroit, where he stays in a posh hotel and eats spaghetti and meatballs (above) and get into even more trouble. The threat of violence hangs over Buzzard from the very first scene (involving an odd glove). And though this violence does come to fruition, it is both worse and better than we might have imagined.

There's a school-boy duel between Freddy Krueger and a Star Wars laser, and some back-story hints dropped now and again. But to Potrykus' great credit, he has turned Buzzard into a fine character study of a sad but fascinatingly marginal figure -- and in the process given his star a creepily star-making role to play.

The movie -- from Oscilloscope and running 97 minutes -- debuts tomorrow, March 4, at BAM in Brooklyn, and then opens theatrically this Friday, March 6, at 13 cities across the country, and further, too, in the weeks to come. (In NYC, it plays the Film Society of Lincoln Center; in L.A., Laemmle's Noho 7.) To see all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters, click here and scroll down.

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