Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Minos Papas' SHUTTERBUG takes us back to the weird 60s in style & theme, if not time-frame

Whew -- what a time trip! SHUTTERBUG, the new film from Minos Papas which looks like a million dollars, photog-
raphy-wise, whisks us back to a decade of experimentation: in film technique, style, story, and that old bugaboo, the search for identity. At least I think that's what on the movie-maker's mind. But I wouldn't want to swear to it.  That's also why the film reminded me of the movie-going experience during the mid-to-late 60s: Back then, we'd often watch a film as much for its "puzzle" factor as for any innate entertainment value.

Mr. Papas (shown at right) follows the "adventures" of a very hunky photographer named Alex -- played, as well as his role allows, by Nando Del Castillo (shown above and below) -- at work (he's rather driven and doesn't always treat his models nicely), at home (where his girl is growing tired of his unpleasant ways) and at play (or what passes for play in this guy's world: taking more photographs -- but outdoors). One day, as he shoots the sun, he looks into it and promptly starts having "eye trouble."

In this case "eye trouble" means seeing spots and then photographing a young woman who is not actually there. He consults a pal who tells him to visit an eye doctor (after engaging in a rather funny discussion of photography-against-writing as an art form), which he does (below). No problem. No: The problem is elsewhere. And here is where Shutterbug either falls apart, as it did for me, or perhaps will open up for you into a whole, wild new world, as the filmmaker takes us into a semi-phantasmagorical dimension in which our hero meets all kinds of weird folk (fortune-teller, street gang, pest exterminator, crazy cabbie, etc.) who help (or not) his search for identity and the "real," better Alex. Or maybe not. As I say, I'm not sure I have a clue as to what is on Mr. Papas' mind regarding this movie and what's going on. Maybe I'm wrong even about that identity thing.

Yet the photography looks awfully good, and so does Mr. Del Castillo, though he and most of the cast offer performances that appear either flat or one-note. Could be that they weren't sure what was going on either, or that, as written, their roles offered little chance for "range." At this point I did what I usually don't do -- and referred to the press notes given me by the film's very accom-
modating publicist. You viewers that go to the theater or wait for the DVD to arrive do not have the benefit of these press notes, so my theory is, "If my readers don't have access to any 'explanation,' why should I?" But in this case, I broke my rule and in the process discovered that the film, as Mr. Papas notes, "is inspired by Greek mythology, Dante's Inferno, and life in New York." Hmmm. OK.

Papas has been able to imagine and have photographed his fantasy elements pretty well (his cinematographer was Rossana Rizzo). But he needs to be able to come up with a better hook and follow-through so that we care a little more about the characters and what is going on here. Also, more attention to a comprehen-
sible script and more fulfilling dialog would be helpful. Still, the filmmaker seems to have come up with something that pleases him. He's made the movie he wanted to make. So now it's your move.

Shutterbug makes its theatrical debut this Friday, March 19, at the Cinema Village, after which its nationwide platform release will begin in the spring.

Further note: For those particularly interested in this film -- or in a look at the behind-the-scenes works that goes into making a low/no budget movie -- there's a lot of good information to be found on Mr. Papas'  Shutterbug blog.

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