Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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BENJAMIN CROTTY: FORT BUCHANAN (2014)

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ANDY GILLET AND ILIANA ZABETH IN FORT BUCHANAN

The woes of being a military wife, gay version

Fort Buchanan is the feature directorial debut of an American who lives in Paris and it's a French production, marked by the idiosyncrasy French financing can make possible for small films; this one is based on a short made two years earlier. More idiosyncratic than most, in fact, this feels like a series of spirited jottings, using pretty people. How pretty they are makes up to a degree for the fact that the jottings don't evolve into a much of a story. A mood is set, of sensuosity and budding sexuality, as well as sexual frustration. And then Crotty goes off on an interesting but abrupt tangent, with a new character, and things just come to an end, with a funeral, and a new flirt from a hunky guy who had been there all along.

The frustration is that of Roger (Andy Gillet, the porcelain beauty of Rohmer's The Romance of Astrea and Celadon of NYFF 2007) the husband left behind when his mate Frank (David Baiot)is sent off to Djbouti, in the Horn of Africa. He consults with other military brides, Justine (Mati Diop), Pauline (Pauline Jacquard), the ruby-lipped Judith Lou Lévy, the more mature expatriate American Nancy Lane Kaplan, and others who offer more experienced and sometimes ribald advice to Roger about how to deal with horniness, though he, at first, is bent on being faithful. Roxy (Iliana Zabeth of Bonello's House of Telerance, who has a Vie d'Adèle aura), Frank and Roger's buxom, overblown 18-year-old 'daughter', is a temptation for the horny ladies, who all seem gay in this "deliciously queer utopia," as a Slant reporter from Locarno, James Lattimer, calls it.

Then when Frank is back, he gives Roger the brush-off even when Roger tries ruses suggested by Les Girls -- a new short haircut and short shorts -- and is emboldened for the first time to take the sexual lead with Frank. No dice. There is a dance sequence.

The story from left field is that of Trevor Levy (Luc Chassell of Nikolas Klotz's experimental Low Life (R-V 2012). Chassell, who plays Trevor, has a haunting, sexy face. Someone tells his character that even when he smiles, he looks sad, and it's true. And so perhaps it's no surprise when he tells his young son he's going to California, and it's a euphemism. Trevor is seen, in (says Lattimer) one of "the oddest, most striking images in the entire film, as it wordlessly watches a solitary man in the forest" (Trevor) "climbing to the top of the tallest tree." It is indeed an odd and rather terrifying image, one of the throwaways of this very sui generis effort.

The hunky replacement who was there from the first pugnacious scene is played by Guillaume Palin, member of a rugby team. Lattimer says Crotty's film "does stumble somewhat in the third act, briefly leaving the main characters behind as if bored by its own comparative conventionality." That's one way of putting it. Crotty throughout has a situation, not a story. With Trevor perhaps he has an interesting character. These are all sketches, done with bold strokes and the bright color of 16mm film.

Fort Buchanan, 65 mins., debuted at Locarno. It was screened for this review as part of the 2015 iteration of the joint Film Society of Lincoln Center-Museum of Modern Art series, New Directors/New Films.

Screening with: Taprobana Gabriel Abrantes, Portugal/Sri Lanka/Denmark/France, 2014, DCP, 24m. Portuguese and French with English subtitles. "A sensuous and debauched portrait of Portugal’s national poet Luís Vaz de Camões teetering on the borderline between Paradise and Hell. U.S. Premiere." A witty costume drama with beautiful baroque music. One learns who Camões is and his importance in Portuguese language and culture, thought how seriously this is to be taken is uncertain.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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