There are a lot of people out there that call themselves artists, but few live up to the reputations. If you own a camera with some lights and have a few friends who aren’t camera shy, you can call yourself a film-maker. If you get a round of applause at karaoke you may think you have what it takes to be a singer. One might think that owning a typewriter and a library of classic novels automatically makes you a writer. Such is not the case at all. The quirky art house film Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo uses the basis for this scenario as the blueprint of its narrative.
The film centers on Victor (Carlyle Edwards) a young, wild eyed and bushy tailed writer who is contemplating the outline of his next book. The film opens with Victor and his girlfriend Layla (Helen Bonaparte) pontificating on influences, previous artists who were also tortured souls and life in general. Victor’s mind works a mile a minute in both conversations and in his own head. Edwards’ portrayal of Victor veers into neurotic territory, as he chain smokes and paces through his scenes. Victor fantasizes about his unwritten novel in the shower, seeing his book atop the best seller’s lists, and celebrated for years to come. The only problem for Victor is throughout the film, he is not seen writing one damn word. He can’t allow those fantasies to come true if he doesn’t follow through, so the film allows Victor to contemplate his book through a series of conversational vignettes with fellow friends and artists.
This is the general procedure of Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo for the next 80 minutes. Each encounter Victor has, he skirts around his forthcoming book; the themes, his intentions, influences and conflicts, but he just never gets around to putting these ideas on paper. Artistry can sometime lead to the hardest of procrastination and Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo takes the phrase “writer’s block” to a whole new level.
The vignettes for the most part are charming and interesting slices of life, but this allows for absolutely no plot development in the narrative. Could this have been writer/director Pablo D’Stair’s intention all along? Is his film’s lack of plot points and narrative just an allegory for what the film is trying to say? Is this all just one big inside joke? The film is an experiment in patience for sure. Some of the vignettes are enjoyable, one featuring Tony Burgess and another featuring Adam Grayson are bright spots in both their performance and what they had to say, but some are also excruciatingly long and poorly acted. Carlyle Edwards, as Victor, is a relatively strong performer, and his lack of empathy for his character’s own troubled creative discipline is brilliantly nuanced. For a performance that is in every scene in the film, Edwards seems to be enjoying his work.
Writer/director D’Stair seems to be harkening back to the days of Woody Allen’s early films of the 70’s and 80’s, when a neurotic nebbish (usually played by Allen himself) would go around to his group of bohemian/upper crust friends and contemplate whatever neurosis was bothering him. Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo owes much to this structure. However, Allen was also infusing his love of Bergman, Fellini and the German Expressionist movement into own quirky style of storytelling. Allen’s films had style and a narrative that moved along with the dialogue; true cinema craftsmanship to accompany the ride.
Unfortunately, the biggest drawback for Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo is in this department. The film lacks any style, and is as bland as a parchment paper sandwich. Each vignette in the film seems to be shot with 2 cameras, each static and locked off, and for the most part only one camera set up, either wide or close. Audio is all over the place, some dialogue seems to be recorded professionally while other scenes seem to have been shot using the camera’s microphone. For a film heavily reliant on dialogue, good audio is few and far between to be found here. The film is presented in a 2.35 (or possibly 2.40) widescreen ratio, yet some shots are drastically cropped, which sometimes causes actor’s heads to be cut off, it seems this choice was done in editing for some odd reason, making the visuals quite distracting (not to mention a subtle yet noticeable film grain pass added in post as well over the raw video to try and make the footage look like film).
As a film that speaks about how some people like to pose as artists through a thinly veiled layer of self doubt and narcissism, this film is a success. As a comment on the hastiness of getting your creative juices flowing, it seems to make some great observations. The cinematic eye seems a bit wonky with some low budget film-making, but overall Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo is an interesting and valiant effort.
The film is available to watch for FREE on Vimeo, so check out Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo for yourself. https://vimeo.com/126669794