J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Crave: A Violent Imagination

This freelance crime photographer certainly lacks the endearing personality and slightly ribald history of the great Weegee (a.k.a. Arthur Fellig). He is also a bit challenged in the mental health department as well. His violent fantasies threaten to erupt into his real life during Charles de Lauzirika’s Crave (trailer here), which opens in select theaters later in the week.

Aiden is constantly thinking of what he might do to stand up the rampant crime around him, if he only had the guts.  Typically, his fantasies involve some bloody form of payback, followed by an expression of appreciation from an attractive bystander.  Photographing crime scenes has probably warped his perspective on humanity.  At least he still has one friend: Pete, a cop and fellow AA member.

Against all odds, Aiden commences a halting romantic relationship with Virginia, the neighbor he has long carried a torch for.  However, his extreme social awkwardness and simmering anger predictably pushes her away, just about the time he pockets a discarded hand gun from a crime scene.  These developments will not have a positive effect on his general stability.

Few genre-ish films are as uncompromisingly gritty and pessimistic as the ill-titled Crave.  Set in a pointedly crime-infested Detroit, things start out thoroughly crummy and head swiftly downhill from there.  The Walter Mitty sequences are a bit cartoonish, but Lauzirika never stints on the gore.  Yet, it is the mental implications for Aiden that are truly disturbing.

As problematic as Aiden undeniably is, Josh Lawson still manages to connect with audiences on a human level.  Light years beyond nebbish, his self-defeating and delusional behavior is absolutely excruciating to behold.  This is a hard film to watch, precisely because of acute embarrassment we frequently experience on his behalf.  Still, Crave certainly makes you feel more than a month of quirky indies.

Fortunately, the extreme pathos and lurking creepiness of Lawson’s work is occasionally leavened by Ron Perlman doing his thing as Pete.  Holding his shtick in check, he wisecracks within reason, while giving the film a down-to-earth anchor.  Emma Lung’s Virginia comes across as a rather bland, lightweight object for obsession (and her intuition is obviously substandard), but perhaps that is sort of the point.

Known for producing deluxe DVD boxed sets, Lauzirika won the AMD Next Wave Best Director Award at last year’s Fantastic Fest and one can see why.  His approach is stylish, but he keeps the visual madness tightly under control.  Despite Aiden’s tenuous connection to the world around him, ostensive reality is always easy to determine throughout the film.

Lauzirika maintains the courage of his convictions throughout Crave, which is impressive, but frankly it is easy to wish he had punked out a little bit.  Not really a horror film or a vigilante thriller, but mindful of both cinematic traditions, Crave is a distinctive downer, recommended for those who looking for something bold.  It screens this Thursday night (12/5) at the NoHo Laemmle in Los Angeles and opens in limited release on Friday (12/6),  also launching on VOD via itunes the same day.

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