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August 20, 2008

Team Picture

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Kentucker Audley - 2007
Benten Films All Regions DVD

There is something that Team Picture gets right that hardly seems to happen in movies. In a couple of scenes we hear the sound of summer in the country. Even with the two speaker sound coming out of my television was the overwhelming aural symphony of crickets and other insects. Maybe the moment seemed so extraordinary because films in general have gotten noisier, and people in general, not just filmmakers, have lost the ability to appreciate not only silence, but unadorned ambient sound. Kentucker Audley also has two moments of total silence, allowing the images to speak for themselves, showing a trust in the viewer that seems to have been lost by many mainstream filmmakers.

The film's setting is the Memphis of cheap rental houses, during a summer spent in part lounging in inflatable wading pools, sipping PBRs. David and Eric are two friends who share a house. Both have a tendency to be self-absorbed. David is unaware of his girlfriend's art exhibit, or of her feelings prior to the opening of the show. His lack of recognition of her feelings is the spur for her to end their relationship. Eric, comically clueless, calls up a young woman whose number he as obtained indirectly, initiated a relationship that he misreads as romantic. David quits his job at a sporting goods store, and drives the girl next door to Chicago for the weekend, a tentative friendship that momentarily hints at becoming something more.

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Without putting too fine a point on it, Team Picture has a narrative that play out like Antonioni in small city America. Sure, no one is a sophisticated or beautiful like Alain Delon and Monica Vitti, but at its essence is the story of men and women not totally certain of themselves, or may too certain for the wrong reasons, briefly coming together before drifting apart. Unlike the formality of an Antonioni film, Kentucker Audley's observations of his characters is casual in its observation of how people interact. There is no effort to be dramatic in the theatrical sense, nor does Audley have the need to make his film longer than an hour. What needs to be expressed is done without extra emphasis or adornment.

There is one wonderful shot that would be worthy of Yasujiro Ozu in its simplicity, had Ozu deigned to shoot from a crane, or more likely, a ladder. The camera looks down a the lawn, the wading pools removed, dragged away for storage. We see the rings of flattened grass where the pools were set, and an abandoned yellow ball. Without needing to show anything else, this is the perfect image of the end of summer.

I also should add that the brief running time of Team Picture works to its benefit for a more personal reason. Unlike many films that can can be assessed in one pass, I saw Team Picture once, let a couple of days pass, and viewed the film a second time. Team Picture is antithetical to what currently passes for mainstream filmmaking, and needs to be appreciated on its own terms.

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Posted by peter at August 20, 2008 12:51 AM