Film Reviews


By • Mar 14th, 2010 •

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Opening for a limited run in several cities, SHUTTERBUG is a unique film experience for today’s film-going public. When I was growing up in the 50s, there were ‘art’ theaters, playing mainly foreign films, and on rare occasions some of the very few indie home grown productions that intentionally defied Hollywood standards of narrative structure or studio look. Usually, independently owned theaters would run these art films, and if you didn’t have one in your town, or very nearby, you were out of luck. I lived in New Rochelle, and then Harrison, both located in Westchester County, NY, and there was an art theater in White Plains, not far from either location, called The Pix. My parents were adventurous movie-goers, and they dragged me there from time to time. My memories are dim about which films I saw there, but certainly some Fellini, some Bergman, some Kurosawa, and the early British work of Peter Sellers (I’M ALRIGHT JACK was one I distinctly remember, and one I didn’t much enjoy. It’s billed as a comedy on IMDB, but I remember it being a pretty somber affair).

SHUTTERBUG is a lovely art film in the grand old tradition. Though an American indie, it embodies all the counter-Hollywood ethics one would seek out alternative venues to see. It is on the surface a mystery, and a little deeper it becomes a character study of a troubled young man at a crossroads. But it is the off-mainstream style of the cinematography, the editing, the art direction, and particularly the direction by Minos Papas, which recalls the wonderful bygone days of Art House patronage, where one clearly chose the theater because they wanted something different but classy. And that’s what we get here.

Nando Del Castillo plays Alex Santiago , a fashion photographer who has lost interest in the glitzy, commercial, high-paying work he’s been doing. During an early morning shoot designed to reinvigorate his own aesthetics, he thinks he sees something strange after singeing his retinas by staring into the sunrise (a variation on/nod to art house classic BLOWUP by Michelangelo Antonioni?) and spends the remainder of the film in a kind of NYC-as-Alice’s Wonderland, trying to solve the puzzle. As in countless quest films such as THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, the end product is less important then the journey.

Del Castillo is a fine actor, with a paintbox full of nuanced expressions, important here because he’s in practically every scene, and never wears out his dramatic welcome. The low-budget trappings – digital video, etc., – are as good as it gets. Framing compositions are often stunning, color balance daring and marvelous. In pacing and resolution, it is not a film for all tastes, but it never was intended to be. Its audience is out there waiting for it. Hopefully they’ll be alerted to its presence.

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