Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
SF Indie Fest ’17: Americana
Wells is in the movie business, but he still has a conscience. Granted, he is a
film editor rather than a big star or producer, but we should take what we can
get. Unfortunately, his deep-seated guilt has forced him to retreat into the
bottle. A chance at redemption will have tragic repercussions in Zachary Shedd’s
Bay Area noir Americana (trailer here), which screens
during the 2017 San Francisco Independent Film Festival.
since the fatal accident, Wells has been largely drinking himself into oblivion
in his Northern California cabin, until producer Calib Andrews practically
abducts him. Drying out Wells, Andrews hires him to recut his troubled film Americana, starring Wells’ own sister
Kate, who happened to be in his car the night he ran over a young boy. Just
when Wells starts to get on with his life, a relative of the victim commits an
act of truly Biblical revenge that sends him spirally down again. However, a
couple of well-placed questions lead Wells to suspect the motives of his
Shedd has spent a great deal of time studying 1970s neo-noirs like De Palma’s Obsession. He and cinematographer Justin
Charles Foster get the look and form right, but the substance is thin. Even with
the Shedd’s suggestively Spartan approach to storytelling, his narrative is
rather sleight and his twists are not difficult to anticipate. Still, he fully
capitalizes on the San Francisco locations, without summoning disruptive memories
of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which is
really quite a feat to pull off.
Wells, David Call broods and implodes with admirable conviction. Kelli Garner
projects a sense of vulnerability tinged with darkness that works perfectly for
sister Kate and gives viewers an idea why she was cast as Marilyn Monroe in the
Lifetime miniseries we will probably never see. Jack Davenport and Peter Coyote
add the sort of roguish color and sharp elbows that well suits its Hollywood
features strong performances by the entire
ensemble and it is finely polished. However, it just never really gets very
far. Basically, it makes noir feel small and slow. Recommended only for Bay
Area film boosters who will forgive its predictability, Americana screens Saturday (2/4) and Wednesday (2/8), as part of
this year’s SF Indie Fest.
Labels: Bay Area Cinema, SF Indie Fest '17