|THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF LITTLE DIZZLE
*** (out of four)
|starring Marshall Allman, Vince Vieluf, Natasha Lyonne, Tygh Runyan
written and directed by David Russo
The scion of a constipated generation, Seattle tech worker Dory (Marshall Allman) is sampling religions like grab-bag candy when a sealed bottle floats past during his lunch-hour Bible study. The message within could be either from God or from the famously polluted Puget Sound itself, but it sets Dory on a career-destroying spiral that ends with a new job on an office cleaning crew, scrubbing johns alongside renegade "artist" OC (Vince Vieluf). One of their clients is product lab Corsica Research, where a young exec (Natasha Lyonne, long missed but giving the least authentic performance here) decides the trash-scavenging janitors are perfect test subjects for an awful but addictive new cookie. The active ingredient impregnates men first with an altered consciousness (whole concepts break loose from language and float free in the air, in electrically beautiful F/X sequences), and finally with what can only be described as an incandescent blue lungfish. But it's not so much an Alien-esque affliction as an epiphany, with each man finding peace and even enlightenment in this scatological process of "childbirth." No longer adrift, they're vessels for a new life--the only kind that can survive, it's implied, in a world where Zoloft flows from the kitchen tap and breakfast just isn't a meal without Yellow Dye No. 5. Allman and Vieluf play perfectly off each other under Seattle writer-director David Russo, whose jitter-editing and hallucination segments recall Darren Aronofsky and whose screenplay references Philip K. Dick. Russo's deployment of soundtrack music skillfully twists the knife where it counts--witness the lo-fi but enchanting version of the Carpenters' "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" (by The Langley Schools Music Project, fascinating in itself) that closes the film, as Dory deposits a new message in the water and contemplates, as all new fathers must, a future for his children.-JR
April 21, 2010|The films of David Russo have a distinctly handmade feel, and often the hand becomes visible. A largely self-taught filmmaker and animator, he makes no pretense that he's not manipulating the action. When he sets his models into neon time-lapse against backdrops that strobe from sky to sea to blackness, he almost always winds up in the shot. In Russo's short creations and in his first feature film, The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, bespoke art objects--or even just words--make long, looping journeys in search of some answer. But like most philosophical quests, the journey is more important than its endpoint.
While he developed his craft Russo carried on an eleven-year career as a janitor, a vocation that sharpened his sense of the things society values: what we keep, what we cast away, what we flush. His short art films Populi (2002) and Pan With Us (2003) (viewable here, along with most of the artist's other work) gave him his first wider exposure, competing at the Sundance Film Festival in consecutive years. More recently, his hand-wrought animation lent texture to the video for Thom Yorke's "Harrowdown Hill" (2006).
Dizzle's path from script to screen was fraught with financing issues and a slender production window. It wasn't bought for distribution after its Sundance debut in early 2009, and by the time it reached Russo's hometown Seattle International Film Festival the same year, its hopes for release were no better. Finally, Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film picked up Dizzle for a brief 2010 New York theatrical engagement and a video-on-demand run that starts today. Russo's renegade janitors, chemically enlightened and midwifing the birth of a new species, might manage to swim free of the sewers after all.