Bringing us much too close for comfort to a stuttering, snot-nosed 20-something Brooklynite named Keith (played with freakish intensity by an actor named Dore Mann), Frownland is either a primal scream issued from a potentially dangerous mind, a wildly original work of outsider art, a doctoral thesis on how not to make friends and influence people, or all (or none) of the above. Only this much is certain: It's been a while since something this gonzo turned up at a theater near you. Writer-director Ronald Bronstein establishes the queasy tone of the film early on and rarely veers from it. Interrupted from his TV dinner by a frantic call from his presumptive girlfriend, Laura (Mary Wall), Keith rushes to her side, forces himself to cry by holding his eyelids open, and finally brings Laura back to his mouse-hole apartment, where he tries to console her with a pathetic bit of sock-puppet theater. Less a straightforward narrative than a collection of disjunctive vignettes, Frownland goes on to follow Keith as he pounds the pavement as a door-to-door solicitor, engages in trench warfare with his roommate over an unpaid Con Ed bill, and repeatedly forces his way into the life (and apartment) of his only apparent friend. I can't say I've completely deciphered what Frownland is all about, but there is some kind of demented brilliance at work here, and I can't wait for the encore.
Good times in Indieville.
Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., June 27–Thurs., July 3. Not rated. 106 minutes.