nothing to lose

Frownland (Ronald Bronstein, 2007)






No matter what their flaws, the main characters in mainstream movies are almost always appealing in some way. If they are nebbishes, their klutziness is endearing. (Look at the work of Woody Allen.) If they are lonely, their alienation is grand and alluring. (Look at the work of Orson Welles.) If they are evil, their villainy is sexy and rakish. (Look at the work of Christopher Walken.) Ronald Bronstein strips away the Hollywood idealizations and asks us to spend time with genuinely unromantic characters leading genuinely unromantic lives. He creates characters we don’t want to see ourselves as, characters we refuse to identify with. There is much lip service paid to the importance of depictions of “otherness” in film; Frownland reveals that the concept of otherness as redemptive and transformative is a romantic myth. He gives us otherness we want to cross the street to avoid; otherness without sentimentality. Or is he just giving us ourselves with our self–deluded idealizations removed? – Ray Carney






There’s a certain type of person out there…one that we’re all familiar with…who provokes a kind of instant instinctive repulsion in nearly everyone they cross paths with. You run into these ‘off’ people now and again and it’s the social equivalent of pushing two magnets towards one another. By way of example, it’s the kind of person who might stop you on the street and ask you for directions and before you know it you’re claiming that you don’t know the way…even though you do….just to end the exchange as quickly as possible. In life, it’s just so easy to dismiss people like this. They don’t occupy enough real estate in your brain to force you to confront and reasonably gauge whether this instinctive aversion is justified. You simply go about your business and push them out of your mind as quickly as they entered into it. I guess i figured a movie theatre, where people are willing to be held captive for a few hours, is a good environment to make audiences spend time with someone like this, chew em over, swallow em, regurgitate em, chew some more, etc…and hopefully arrive at a more layered response. – Ronald Bronstein






Fractionally better than spending the evening watching crappy French tele in a Nantes hotel-room… Yes – last night, I had the choice of “Frownland” at Nantes’ Katorza art cinema or an evening of the direness that is currently being dished up for the TV-audience of France… I think “Frownland” was just worth leaving the hotel for. But, really, it is a car-crash of a film… Every character repelled and bored me, nothing happened, there was far too much snot, it looked so dated [despite apparently only having been made last year], etc., etc… I think the acting was OK – as far as it went – and I’m more than happy to turn a blind eye to a slightly grainy picture and an obviously low budget if the film-maker has got something genuinely interesting to say. [In fact, I’d encourage such film-makers, as we really do need an alternative to Hollywood.] But, a film needs to engage me much better than “Frownland” managed to. – badgerking10, imdb comment

At 106 minutes, it is at least 95 minutes too long. You get to watch the main character’s failed and drawn out attempts to communicate, in extended real time. The same grimaces, hand over mouth motions, kinetic and frantically repeated words and syllables over and over and over again – WE GET THE POINT.
One site actually compares this work to early Mike Leigh. What drugs would you have to be on to make that statement? – NJtoTX, imdb comment








A Man Escaped [Un condamné à mort s’est échappé] (Robert Bresson, 1957)

“Bresson had wanted to entitle the film ‘Aide-toi’ (‘Help yourself’), part of the French expression, ‘Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera‘: in other words, ‘Heaven helps those who help themselves.’ He commented: ‘I would like to show this miracle: an invisible hand over the prison, directing what happens and causing such and such a thing to succeed for one and not for another…. . The film is a mystery…The Spirit breathes where it will.” (source)