Only in LA: One of the Best American Films of the Last Ten Years
Published January 13, 2009
Back in early 2007, with nary a thought of our inevitable economic doom, when the world was peachy keen and every night was a cabaret, a group of renegades under the leadership of director Ronnie Bronstein had the audacity to unleash a movie so negative, so frustrating, and so dismal that it engendered a unique form of hostility, the likes of which had not been seen from an audience since Alan Vega snarled and whipped his chain on stage in the early 70s. Frownland never got an official release in our sunny United States, and only played for a few weeks in Existentialist Paris. Tonight it screens at UCLA, free to the public, at a time when viewers may finally be ready for its utter bleakness.
There are a multitude of reasons to see Bronstein’s debut film; unrivalled in its dedication to awkwardness and anxiety, the film follows a lowly New York man (maddeningly portrayed by Dore Mann) in his lowly New York existence. There’s no point in saying too much; it is a character study, a mood piece, reality gone really bad. Like Wiseman meets Cassavetes meets Suicide meets barbiturates, Frownland shares some aesthetic features with the best parts of 1970s America, but as anyone who reads the newspaper will tell you, its suggestion that miscommunication and absolute failure are at the core of our country is definitely of the now.
Frownland plays at UCLA’s Melnitz Hall at 7:30 PM tonight. If you don’t live in the LA-area, the inevitable DVD release should not be ignored.