Note: Since this is a collection of shorts, we will split the review into three parts.
A Schizophrenics Love Story
Mark (Hans Stefan Ducharme) hears voices. They tell him to touch things. They prevent him from showing up for dates with his girlfriend (Sarah Farnham) and, once, from attending her birthday party. As you might imagine, this is a problem for her. Our hero tries to explain, but as she sees it either her boyfriend is lying to her about skipping her birthday party or is crazy. Neither option appeals to her so she dumps him.
A Schizophrenics Love Story, as a whole, is a largely effective short that tends to wear some influences on its sleeve. And while that's not always a bad thing, here it tends to be a bit much over the final third. It owes a debt to modern thrillers like The Usual Suspects (1995). I would stop short, however, of calling it derivative. You can see where the ideas are coming from, but the film thankfully resists becoming a carbon copy.
Evan Richards' main strength is a visual style that, in conjunction with cinematographer A.J. Muffet, provides a consistent style throughout his films. The eye for framing and composition is innate, as most good ones are, and he understands, for the most part, the value of a camera move as a narrative device, and not just something to do because it looks cool. That's not to say he's a visual virtuoso, the second coming of P.T. Anderson. There's still moments where the camera could probably be in a better spot, where the camera move could be more effective, but for the most part Richards gets it, and who's to say those hiccups aren't just budgetary limitations or perhaps simply part of the learning curve?
Lest I give too much praise for a film that clearly has some flaws, consider that Richards' writing here is a little choppy — the dialogue tends to go directly from point to point without bothering to transition cleanly — and I'd like to see some of the characters and scenes fleshed out a bit more, as the film occasionally leans toward cliche. But these are problems fixable by experience, and there's no reason to believe Richards won't grow as a writer (the script itself was written in 2004). The dialogue has a generally natural feel. It just needs another draft or two with the realization that just because dialogue reads well on the page doesn't always mean it will sound good on screen.
If this were a lesser film, if the visuals weren't so well-composed, then the dialogue might come off better. It just isn't up to the film's visual standard. But I have little doubt that in time it will be.
Starring: Hans Stefan Ducharme, Sarah Farnham, Joy Vanmeter, and Shawn McVicar
Cinematography by: A.J. Muffet
Written by: Evan Richards Directed by: Evan Richards & Nathan Horn
17 min/Bangor, ME
Sleepwalker is, above all else, an exercise in style. It follows a sleepwalker (Joshua Whinnery) who, while crashed on his couch, gets up and wanders around downtown Bangor in the middle of the night. It's something we've all seen before, but it gives Richards and Muffet a chance to show off a beautiful side of a city that rarely gets noticed as such. Working with what must be almost entirely natural light, they compile a city fit for a dream sequence. And as someone who's been to Bangor on several occasions, let me just say that's no small feat.
Starring: Joshua Whinnery
Cinematography by: A.J. Muffet
Directed by: Evan Richards
2 min/Bangor, ME
Richard Robertson's Rockport Pottery
There's something about footage of a someone making pottery that instantly grabs my attention. Whenever I'm channel surfing and there's something about pottery on PBS, I have to stop and watch. I'm just so fascinated by how this spinning lump of clay so quickly becomes something else, how with the smallest amount of pressure, the potter is able to form this nearly flawless thing. I can't fathom how delicate and precise that process must be, yet it always looks so damned easy.
But even beyond that, this is a compelling documentary short. Through a voice-over, Richard Robertson explains how he got started in pottery and how that led to him studying for two years in Japan with Zen pottery masters. Richards combines this storyline (and the resulting tangents about finding an artistic calling) with the visual progression of the pottery's creation. The two narratives — the audio and the visual — work well together without feeling cluttered. Or maybe they do. I keep getting distracted by the spinning clay.