It feels like it has been a long time since the last Allison Anders
movie. Winner of a MacArthur Genius award, the filmmaker has been working steadily, directing independ films and episodes of high profile TV series including Sex and The City
, but twenty years have passed since the release of the iconic Gas Food Lodging
Her new film Strutter
, co-directed by Kurt Voss, recently screened at the Exground Film Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany
. The film’s funding was completely crowdsourced; it is one of those amazing Kickstarter
success stories. Individuals, including none other than Quentin Tarantino
, contribute to another person’s passion project. No studio money. The film’s budget was a mere $25,000.
I sat uncomfortable in my hard wooden chair, in a small theater in what felt like the middle of nowhere, nervous. Because twenty years later, I still love Gas Food Lodging. I can still see young and pretty and then-unknown Fairuza Balk with her long braid, living in a trailer, with mother and older sister, shyly entering a sweet romance with a local Mexican boy. I can picture that scene with Ione Skye who loses her virginity in a glowing cave with a visiting rock scientist. It was one of those first movies that made me love movies.
I so wanted Strutter
to be good. And it was. I watched the film with a permanent smile on my face, pleased by it all. Flannery Lunsford stars as Brett Pierce, a good guy, a young musician in Los Angeles, who has a favorite shirt he wears all the time, covered in bright stars. Right at the start, he is dumped by his girlfriend Justine and not long after, his band falls apart. The story starts there.
Hapless, likeable Brett drinks a lot, whines to his friends, and leaves drunken messages on his ex’s cell. This is an almost running gag; we never actually see Justine, the incredibly hot, incredibly talented woman who dashed all of his dreams. After college, Brett moans, he was so full up hope. Instead, he ends up back in his mother’s house, with nothing, his childhood bedroom filled with guitars. His mother (LuAnn Anders) is back together with her musician boyfriend Frank (Craig Stark). This is an unconventional family. Frank is not faithful. Later, on tour, we will be introduced to a string of women, a different woman in every town.
In the course of the film, Brett snaps out of it. Gets out of bed. Starts writing music. Slowly, good things start happening. He’s got some cool friends: his so-called idol, another local hipster musician, Damon Welsh (Dante White-Aliano) and also Cleo (Elyse Hollander), pretty, awkward, vintage dress and,black eyeliner wearing Cleo, who makes movies, Cleo who has been waiting for years for her friend Brett to see her as something more. He does, of course.
Strutter is shot in a dreamy black and white. It shows a rundown Los Angeles rarely shown on the silver screen. A silent movie theater, tiny clubs, the guitar shop where Brett works, the used record store, the vintage clothing shop, and small, cluttered apartments.
Brett, Damon and Frank hit the road together, embarking on a mini tour of sorts. The film takes us to a quieter America: a small motel room, the open road, the desert, and finally, Joshua Tree. The men get drunk together. More important, they make music together. The actors in Strutter
are also real musicians; they are playing their own songs. It is inspiring, watching people making music.
Strutter has an amateur quality to it that is endearing. The cast is filled with unknowns they seem real. I liked them. The dialogue is funny, sweet. I laughed, a lot, watching this film. The audience in Germany seemed equally enthusiastic. I feel lucky that I got to see it. I hope a lot more people do.
Strutter is screening at international film festivals, including the Exground Film Festival.