There has been a generation of American independent filmmakers conveniently boxed in under the "mumblecore" label, due to its talkative profile, ultra-low-budget DIY aesthetics and fixation with the personal lives of its characters. While this resolutely non-mainstream genre has generated a few breakout talents - such as the polymath Duplass brothers, Lynn Shelton's affiliated comedy Humpday or actress Greta Gerwig - most of it remains an acquired niche taste loved and hated in equal parts. With his sophomore feature after the resolutely less obvious Impolex, hyphenate Alex Ross Perry marries the mumblecore aesthetics to the current American fashion for uncomfortable adult comedy, constructing a painfully embarrassing odyssey for his lead characters, awkward nerd Colin and his brassy sister JR, that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "sibling rivalry". Played by Mr. Ross Perry and his co-writer Carlen Altman, Colin and JR simply do not get along, but he can't turn her down when she asks his help to pick up her belongings from her ex-boyfriend's house (who also happens to have been her teacher).

     What follows is a parade of sad-sack, passive-aggressive confrontations between two awkward losers and a society that thrives on exploiting their weaknesses, stylishly if clunkily shot in 16mm black-and-white film on pre-existing American Northeast locations, and resolving itself in a series of tableaux that could be a smart equivalent to the Stations of the Cross. Yet the pathos from the pesky daily confrontations between real life and dreams and wishes is persistently undermined by the haphazard nature of the footage, whose set-ups and editing lack the formal elegance someone like Jean-Luc Godard was able to give this sort of guerrilla filmmaking environment. The circular motifs of the overwritten dialogue, delivered in rapid fire by a nonchalant cast of non-pros and friends, only heighten the general lack of structure of the film, and very quickly The Color Wheel is overwhelmed by the sense, so prevalent in mumblecore, of a gang of friends exercising their filmmaking chops unencumbered by any need to communicate other than with themselves. There are, though, two saving graces: Sean Price Williams' evocative cinematography and Carlen Altman's unaffected, sympathetic presence as JR, leavening the film's heavy-going load.

Carlen Altman, Bob Byington; Kate Lyn Sheil, Anna Bak-Kvapil, Ry Russo-Young, Roy Thomas, Craig Butta, C. Mason Wells, Alex Ross Perry.
     Director and editor, Mr. Ross Perry; screenplay, Ms. Altman, Mr. Ross Perry; cinematography, Sean Price Williams (black & white); music, Preston Spurlock; art director, Ms. Bak-Kvapil; producer, Mr. Ross Perry (Dorset Films), USA, 2011, 83 minutes.
     Screened: IndieLisboa 2012 advance screener, Lisbon, April 7th 2012.


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