More SIFF Locals: Bass Ackwards and The Penitent Man

Bass Ackwards To an extent, Linas Phillips has already made this movie as a documentary: Walking to Werner, which played SIFF '06. Now, instead of hoofing it from Seattle to L.A., he drives a chopped VW microbus from Seattle to Boston. Again he meets friendly kooks along the way; again he wonders what the hell he's doing with his life; and again the journey is some kind of personal process for the guy. Before, his trek was a chronicle of becoming a filmmaker, like his idol, Werner Herzog. Here Phillips embeds himself as an actor in a semi-fictional quest—but for what, exactly? Enlightenment, love, the next step in a sustainable filmmaking career? The character of Linas is a loser who can't move beyond wedding videos, couch surfing, and alpaca farming. ("Tell me you love me," he whispers to the latter.) He invites us to share in the self-reproach, yet his odyssey isn't an entirely therapeutic wallow. The oddballs he meets make him feel better about his life; they have more or less love than he, families intact and sundered. Half the cast is credited with co-writing Bass Ackwards, which has an amiable, improvised, ramshackle feel. Linas is earnest and non-judgmental; if he's a screw-up himself, he's generously disposed toward other failings—not a critic, in other words. But as his father asks by phone, "Do you have any kind of a game plan?" The same question applies to Phillips' movie. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Harvard Exit: 9:24 p.m. (Also: 3:45 p.m. Sun., May 23.)The Penitent Man Shot here by Seattle native Nicholas Gyeney, The Penitent Man plays like an old episode of The Twilight Zone. You'll soon guess its big reveal, as a stranger (Lance Henriksen, Aliens) comes to visit a therapist (local stage actor Lathrop Walker), with far too much knowledge about the latter's life, job, and marriage. As talk turns to wormholes and the butterfly effect, The Penitent Man mires itself into groan-tastic dialogue ("Like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun") and a fatal case of tell, don't show. The runtime of 88 minutes is far too long for what little the movie hopes to say about fate and free will. And unless you're Darren Aronofsky directing Pi, it's best not to wed grand sci-fi philosophy with indie movie budgets. Most of the movie consists of two guys in a room talking about how dark the future will be… any minute now…armageddon lies ahead… possibly in the very next scene…which never arrives. It makes one yearn for the sci-fi clarity of Stargate, or even Hot Tub Time Machine. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Egyptian: 9:30 p.m. (Also: 4 p.m. Mon., May 24.)


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