From the beginning you can tell Bellflower is going to be a different kind of film. One of the first scenes involve a weird underground bar that holds weird contests. This time, it’s a cricket eating competition. The winner gets $50. Woodrow is forced by his pal, Aiden, to take the challenge. He goes up against Milly, a cute girl who readily took up the challenge. I know, the last person you expect to take part in such is a cute girl. Despite the circumstances, Woodrow falls in love with Milly. It’s obvious that the girl also has.
Woodrow and Aiden are also in the process of assembling a flame-thrower. From their conversations, we understand that they’re improvising from other equipment and ordering some more online. You can tell that they’re really into it. This is apparently to be used to fight their way through the wasteland that will remain of the earth after the apocalypse. There are also numerous references to Mad Max.
This is probably the weirdest romantic films I have ever seen. Woodrow and Milly’s first date is in a Texas joint that has on its menu, day old meatloaf. Milly herself requests to go to the dirtiest, cheapest joint they can find. “I’ll be mad if I don’t get sick,” she says before they set off halfway through the country just so they could have the worst food in America.
I don’t know if I can say much plot-wise, even though some of it is obvious from the very first shot (which is one of those famous flash-forward sequences that I don’t remember seeing much before J.J. Abrams time). From this shot, we know what’s going to happen. In any other movie, we are content seeing how they get to that moment. But somehow, I found myself forgetting about all that in the middle of the story. Their relationship is really interesting and despite the weirdness of their meeting, first date and general lifestyle, they still manage to make a cute couple.
This is one of those stories that are too honestly told to have been made up. A lot of the things in the film don’t make sense in the real world. You never see Woodrow and Aiden (or anyone else in the movie) going to work or doing anything that might earn them money, but they’re always buying things to aid them in their preparation for the apocalypse. As far as I know relationships, I don’t know how they can survive in the circumstances presented in the film, especially when a hot girl is involved. But somehow, I got to believe in all of it. It’s one of those things that are too crazy to have been entirely conceived within a human being’s brain (how I also somehow feel about Pulp Fiction).
And it is somewhat true. Evan Glodell wrote it immediately after breaking up with his girlfriend in 2003. It took about eight years to make the film, from writing to production. The film was shot on an impressive $17,000, which I believe is too little even for a feature length local production. But the film still manages to maintain a very distinct and rich image quality, which can be seen even in the still shots. If you think you have never seen a film with this kind of quality before, then it’s because you haven’t.
Glodell apparently has found a way to dismantle cheaper cameras, play around with the lenses to make them produce high quality images produced like those by more expensive cameras. He used this skill to build a whole new camera. The focus on some shots are totally off and not what we’re used to. Sometimes there’s more than one subject on the screen, approximately the same distance from the camera but the focus remains on one. The greens and yellows are overly saturated and when the camera focuses on one thing, everything else is almost totally blurred.
And by looking at the credits, you can tell the film did a lot to save on cash. One of the producers (Vincent Grashaw) was also the editor, so was Joel Hodge, the cinematographer (who gave the film its unique look). And in the most acts of dexterity I’ve ever seen in a production (not that Eddie Murphy shit), Evan Glodell wrote the story, turned it to screenplay, produced it (after realizing he can’t sit around with the script hoping for someone to make it for him) and starred in the film. As if that wasn’t enough, he joined Hodge and Grashaw in post-production to edit the film. The film had a crew of about seven who were involved in the production for about 90 days of principal photography. There are scenes that would naturally need professionals to oversee. One of them involves a gas tank. Another one comes when they’re finally testing the flame-thrower. That scene, funny as it is, did not have a pyrotechnician to secure the set and control or advise on the danger that maybe posed to a guy with a gas tank strapped to his back and a flaming nozzle in his hand. Glodell himself built the flamethrower, even tuned his personal car with flaming exhausts with his own bare hands.
This film is as Indie as they get, not those films that are produced by the arms of major studios and taken around festivals like Sundance as Independent. From the work that went into it, its budget and the small, inexperienced cast, it manages to come out better than most films I’ve watched this year. Glodell didn’t study film and with full creative, manages to make Bellflower one of those movies that make you think how unfair the film industry is. It is one of those movies that deserve more attention, maybe more than The Smurfs got. The film did get distribution at Sundance last year but I don’t think enough people have seen it yet. And more people need to.
The film also has pretty cool stuff, like the apocalyptic machine, Medusa, which as I mentioned earlier is apparently Evan Glodell’s personal car. Earlier in the film, there’s the Speed Biscuit, which impressed even a teetoller like me. You have to watch it to see what it’s about.
There’s a scene with Woodrow walking down the street with a bloodied shirt, that scene stayed with me. My favorite moment of any film in 2011. Bellflower may just be an examination of relationships and what they do to us or how far they can go in affecting our lives and the direction of it. For a film about meatheads, Bellflower manages to be arty without being condescending.