Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thoughts on two films from Sundance- "California Solo" & "I Am Not a Hipster"

California Solo
                       Sitting next to a successful musician a few days ago a question formed in my mind “If you weren’t able to do this, play music as a living, what would you be doing?” In many ways this is one of the fundamental questions being asked in the film “California Solo” which premiered at the Sundance film festival a few weeks ago. Yet the answer to this question is the darker side of what happens to many artists who can’t let go of the past to live fully into the present and therefore create a future.
 California Solo is the story of Lachlan a former Britpop rocker, in the vein of bands like The Verve/Stone Roses/T-Rex, who is now managing an organic farm outside of Los Angeles and living out the pain of his former existence via massive bottles of alcohol and a podcast called “Flame-Outs” which covers the tragic deaths of great musicians.  Lachlan is a man caught between the haunting past and an empty future, where his greatest hope is to get the chance to show Beau, a beautiful and young customer at the farm’s stand in the Silver Lake farmer’s market, the farm and maybe have a night of connection. He is a man who needs something to change his trajectory and path; this needed catalyst comes in the form of a DUI. Which in and of it’s self should be a wake up call but there is more in store for Lachlan with the DUI comes up a past drug offense which leads to the threat of deportation. The only way Lachlan will be able to stay in the United States is to prove that his absence will cause a US citizen, like child or spouse, “extreme hardship”. Thinking it will be as easy as pie this clause leads to Lachlan contacting his ex wife and daughter, neither of whom he has seen for years. Intertwined with his seeking contact with his lost family Lachlan keeps making choices based in forms of numbing and forgetting leading him deeper down the rabbit-hole. In the end Lachlan’s daughter reaches out to him and in that action Lachlan a man who could never come to meet his past is able to for the first time in years accept responsibility for his life and in doing so move forward.  Restoration comes in relationship and not always getting what you want. 

I Am Not a Hipster
                             As much as I love film very rarely does one capture my heart and creativity from the opening shot. Yet Destin Cretton's film did just that. Walking into the theatre from the freezing cold of Utah in the winter I knew next to nothing about this film except that it was about a hipster musician. What I had entered was a beautiful story about the way grief throws the world off kilter and how it might be possible to move forward. Brooke the main character is a musician of some fame who moved to San Diego, two years previously after his mother's death. When we first encounter him he is doing his best just to keep his head above water. Brooke is just barely keeping a boiling pot of anger, contempt, and meaningless hidden under an air of apathy. The only thing that is offering him any sort of connection are images and stories of the Japanese Tsunami of last year, something in his experience of this horror has shook him into a need for meaning. Enter his three sisters and father with whom he has a strained relationship with. They have come for a final sending of their mother into the waves of the Pacific ocean.    In his sisters Brooke is offered the space to remember, grieve, and be. He is no longer running away from the loss of his mother, which is how he ended up in San Diego, and with that processing he is able to release the anger, contempt, and meaninglessness which has been plaguing him. Cretton leaves the audience with possibility and that is a beautiful thing. 

When/If you get the chance please see both of these beautiful movies.

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