Indie filmmakers are a dime a dozen and with the advent of affordable digital technology, make that a couple dozen. There are some who advocate that the opening of the floodgates between cultural producers and consumers is nothing but bad news for those who appreciate quality cinema and then there are those like myself who argue that for every cheap shot-on-video zombie flick, there’s a diamond in the rough by the name of Matt Porter.
Last month, I had the pleasure of reviewing, "Gunderson’s," a subtle, deadpan comedy of Wes Andersonesque proportions that brought a smile to my face with its embrace of sheer absurdity and wonderful performances. This month, Porter returns to the pages of Rogue Cinema with "More Perfect Union." a 30-minute stunner of a film that proves in addition to delivering the laughs, he can tell a heartfelt dramatic story (with shades of the dry comedic style of "Gunderson’s") with characters we get to fall in love with and despair at the thought of not seeing them again once the end credits roll.
"More Perfect Union" tells the story of Hank (Max Azulay) who after a fight with his girlfriend Dana (Kate Eastman) flees to a bed-and-breakfast in Virginia run by an elderly Indian couple, Sabir and Neha (Arish and Neena Sahani) where he quickly becomes good friends with them. However, this relationship turns sour after Hank and Sabir toss a couple cold ones back one night, much to the chagrin of Sabir’s wife Neha, who throws him out of the house. Feeling responsible for the couple’s separation, Hank resolves to reunite the couple. The irony here being that he himself has an unresolved conflict with his girlfriend whose phone calls he keeps ignoring through the duration of his stay at the B&B.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to what makes a film great. Ideally, every factor in the filmmaking process stands out and comes together to make a strong piece of work. But at the end of the day, the average filmgoer who doesn’t read "American Cinematographer" only cares about two things – story and character and that is what "More Perfect Union" has in spades. The interaction between Hank and Sabir at night over beers is quite engaging as is Hank’s appeal to Neha to take her husband back. The performances all around are spot on and quite frankly are some of the finest examples of acting I’ve ever seen in an indie short film.
The story itself flows quite well and while the prospect of sitting down to watch a 30-minute "short" film was initially daunting for this reviewer (due to the many, many, MANY terrible filmmakers who try to stuff feature-length stories into a "short film" due of lack of funds to make an actual feature), I’m happy to report that Matt Porter’s skills as a film editor ensures that the experience is so engrossing that time ceases to exist. I was completely absorbed by what I was watching and really felt that I myself was a guest at this B&B and that I was enjoying some of Neha’s famous "grits and curry" and camping out with Sabir as we contemplated life, relationships and everything in-between.
Another major accomplishment in "More Perfect Union" is unquestionably the cinematography of Andrew Ellis. In an age where DPs are apparently epileptics whose inability to hold a camera properly results in chronic shaky hand-held photography, it’s so refreshing to watch a cameraman place his camera on a tripod and beautifully frame shots with shallow depths-of-field and allow the story to unfold without intruding on it with conspicuous "student film-style" camerawork. Clint Eastwood is often accused of being a filmmaker who never met a master-shot he didn’t like. Well, there’s a reason why his films are among the best of their kind and that’s because he doesn’t turn the camera into an attention-seeking whore that makes the audience aware that they’re watching a movie. Great filmmaking is when an audience is so captivated by what they’re seeing that they don’t even realize they’re watching a film. They’re watching someone’s life unfold.
"More Perfect Union" is great filmmaking and Matt Porter is a Clint Eastwood in the making.