Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Baghead opens this Friday

Brothers Mark and Jay Duplass burst onto the film scene with The Puffy Chair, a small indie film that played in extended runs in places like their then home town Austin. Their second feature Baghead shows that as artistically evolving artists they’re not shooting blanks. Released by Sony Pictures Classics, Baghead opens at the Angelika on July 18.
Baghead mixes genres with ease. What starts out as a typical indie film romp soon flowers into a domestic drama that spawns a mystery thriller with a twist. In the end, this is a fresh, sweet film. If there’s a cinematic reference point that would probably be Roman Polanski’s Cul de Sac, a film some describe as weird and entertaining.
“We didn’t set out to make a genre twister,” Mark Duplass the younger of the brothers tells Free Press Houston in a phone interview. “We just wanted to make a good movie.” The Duplass Brothers grew up in New Orleans and later moved to Austin, a city that spawned a filmmaking renaissance in the ‘90s. Baghead was shot primarily in Bastrop and Smithville, outside of Austin. Specifically Baghead explores the changing relationship and “personal passive aggressive dynamics of two couples” during a supposed idyllic retreat to a country house.
With the limited but positive reception of The Puffy Chair and now Baghead getting distributed by Sony Pictures Classics the Duplass Brothers have made the move to L.A. What the brothers took from Austin was a work ethic that includes knowing the history of cinema. “When someone asks me for filmmaking advice,” Mark says, “I tell them ‘Don’t start with a figure for a budget, start with a story and performances.’”
Try as I might I couldn’t get Mark to tell me how they shot a scene that involves a chase through the woods and an automobile. “Did you undercrank the camera and use a stuntman?”
“I would rather not say,” replies Mark. “That scene you mention, we felt it was a pivotal moment in the film, and I will say that we very carefully prepared how to shoot it. But for now I’d like the specifics to remain hidden.”
In a New York Times article a few years back the reporter called the Duplass film an example of “mumblecore.”
“The press decided we were mumblecore,” says Mark. “I think it’s just a way of trying to classify low-fi budget films. Making films is difficult period. There’s chaos and luck.”
The guy with a bag over his head may be what gets people into the theater but the film and its four main characters, themselves a litmus strip of typical young adult motivations, will win over audiences who demand sophistication with their popcorn.
After phone tag with release dates Baghead opens this Friday at the downtown Angelika.


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