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DVD/Blu-ray Review: 'Bellflower'

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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A Fever Dream About Romantic Love and Masculinity

Searing passion, jarring outbursts of violence and a distinctive visual style are key ingredients in Bellflower (2011), a film that generated a lot of buzz at Sundance and SXSW. The movie tells a love story, but one that is testosterone-driven. An image that sticks in viewers' minds is of a resolute-looking young man walking through a residential neighborhood, carrying a flamethrower.

Bellflower is the exciting debut of writer-director Evan Glodell, who also plays the good-looking protagonist, Woodrow. The story begins one day when Woodrow and his longtime best friend Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are in a field. Woodrow fires a shotgun into a burning diesel-filled container, which then shoots out smoke and flames.

That night at a bar Woodrow meets the sexy, but unpretentious Milly (well-played by Jessie Wiseman) when they compete against each other in a contest where the winner is the one who eats the most live crickets. Woodrow loses, but he quickly becomes totally enraptured by the free-spirited Milly. We're shown on screen his wonderful love affair with her — though what we see probably comes from Woodrow's not-necessarily-reliable memory — and then things go calamitously wrong.

The basic story Glodell tells here is familiar, but the audacious, emotionally charged way he tells it is what makes the movie worth seeing. The film's nonlinear, elliptical narrative and the hazy, sometimes fleeting visual images make viewers feel as though they are inside Woodrow's nightmare.

The Film's Peculiar World

Some of the things seen happening on screen in Bellflower are supposed to be real, while others are presumably Woodrow's hallucinations or fantasies. In one scene, a character gets slammed in the head with a baseball bat. In another scene, a different character is shown shooting herself with a pistol. It's left up to the viewer to decide whether or not these scenes represent reality.

One of Bellflower's contrivances is that Woodrow and his best friend Aiden watched Mad Max films repeatedly on videotape as kids and are still influenced by them. Bellflower contains references to Lord Humungous, a character in The Road Warrior, the second of the Mad Max movies. Aiden is inspired by the old movies to customize a 1972 Buick Skylark, tricking it out with flamethrowers and painting on its side the word "MEDUSA."

Geographically, the story is set in some unglamorous, nondescript part of Southern California. Occasionally shown is a street sign for Bellflower Avenue, and the main characters live in low-rent apartments that seem to be situated along this street. The locations where the movie was shot are in Oxnard and Ventura, small California cities roughly 40 miles up the coast from Los Angeles.

Extras

Oscilloscope is releasing Bellflower in a package that contains two discs, one Blu-ray and the other DVD. The contents of the two discs are identical: the feature film plus three video extras that run a total of about 43 minutes.

The best bonus material is the 24-minute "Behind the Scenes of Bellflower," in which all the major cast and crew members are heard from. There's a little on the flamethrower, the most powerful version of which could shoot fire out to a distance of 72 feet. You can also watch Glodell psyching himself up to express rage in the scene where Woodrow confronts Milly, which the filmmakers consider the emotional climax of the movie.

There's also the 10-minute "Medusa Rundown," where Glodell gives a guided tour of the muscle car that Aiden creates for Woodrow. Finally, there are eight minutes of outtakes, consisting of goofs, glitches and actors bursting into laughter.

DVD Release Date: November 15, 2011
Feature Film Runtime: 1 hour 46 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Violence, Some Strong Sexuality, Nudity, Pervasive Language and Some Drug Use

A pre-release review copy of the DVD/Blu-ray Disc was provided by Oscilloscope. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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