Alphonso Bow (Jeffrey Pierce) is a rather unique fellow. An ex-male exotic dancer trained in the martial arts now laying bricks and just about any woman he can find, Alphonso is loud, opinionated and not particularly gifted in the listening department.
Frank (Michael Dempsey), on the other hand, is nearly 15-years older than Alphonso and it shows. A brick salesman who supplies Alphonso with bricks and jobs, Frank seems to get some sort of primal satisfaction out of his daily debates with Alphonso on life issues both grand and miniscule.
It's as if, in some way, both men are waiting. For something. Anything. A certain something.
But, will it ever arrive?
The feature film debut from the father/son creative team of director Lije Sarki (the son) and screenwriter M. Sarki (the father), Alphonso Bow weaves its way through the absurd world of Beckett with glimpses of My Dinner With Andre tossed in for good measure.
The film takes place over the course of the two men gathering for lunch and one of their daily debates at what is obviously a family style restaurant. Unfortunately for all those around them, the conversation at times is anything but "family." The two weave their way through such topics as religion, sex, early childhood behavior, a severely injured dog, Hitler, Samuel Beckett and much, much more.
Is someone right? Is anyone wrong?
Is there any actual purpose to this entire affair?
Having been on the film festival circuit with appearances at Dances With Films, Detroit Independent Film Festival and the Derby City Film Festival, Alphonso Bow is now available from Indieflix and getting ready for release and availability with Amazon, Netflix and ITunes following a special Hollywood screening celebrating the DVD release on June 16, 2010 at 7pm at Cinescape in Hollywood.
The first of at least two planned collaborations between the father and son creative duo ( Get She Water is next), Alphonso Bow is one of those talk heavy films that you either love or hate. The film's success rests squarely in the hands of its co-leads, the ability of the directing Sarki to pace the film appropriately and, perhaps most importantly, the ability of our writing Sarki to write dialogue that feels both authentic and circular in nature.
Seriously, haven't you ever had one of these conversations? This is the kind of conversation that friends have over the course of bottomless cups of coffee at your local Denny's or IHOP or any number of other all night food joints.
I've had these conversations. I'm pretty sure you've had these conversations, and from the way the film flows it's fairly safe to say that cast and crew alike can identify with the tone, rhythm and subjects discussed in the course of this quick-moving 72-minute film.
As the seemingly larger than life Alphonso Bow, Jeffrey Pierce ( The Space Between) has the challenging task of keeping appealing a character who seems like the inbred bastard stepchild of George W. Bush, Ross Perot, a used car salesman and a televangelist. In other words, Alphonso talks much, talks loud, talks often and, more often than not, doesn't really say that much. For the most part, Pierce manages to keep Bow an intriguing character whose inner workings are never quite clear. While he occasionally dips into caricature, his chemistry with Dempsey's Frank is near perfection and the two complement each other quite nicely.
Michael Dempsey is a pure delight as the relatively calm and mostly patient Frank, whose inner workings slowly reveal themselves as the conversation evolves, or devolves, and Frank seemingly begins to decide that Alphonso may not be worth waiting for after all. Dempsey sort of brings to mind the Andy Griffith role from the wonderful Waitress, a sort of feisty but insightful fellow whose motivations are never really crystal clear.
Or maybe he is.
Kasey Buckley and Kate Rodger also shine in relatively brief appearances, though Alphonso Bow is clearly a two-person show.
Filmed on a modest low six-figure production budget, Alphonso Bow is simply yet naturally photographed by Dan Coplan, who manages to capture the contrast between Frank and Alphonso by allowing the camera to rest on facial expressions, body language and through effective use of lighting.
While this is the feature film debut for Lije Sarki, Sarki has an extensive background in acting, producing and also directed a short version of his next film, Get She Water. Similar to the works of Beckett, Sarki doesn't so much dictate the flow of the film as he does allow it to unfold. Of course, this is made much simpler given the film's intelligent and lively screenplay.
Alphonso Bow also features stellar original music by Jason Sebastian Russo, whose tunes play over both the opening and closing credits.
While the character of Alphonso does, in all honesty, wear a bit thin by film's end, the words shared between Alphonso and Frank over the course of their conversation will stay with you long after the closing credits have rolled. A strong debut from both Lije and M. Sarki, Alphonso Bow manages to be quirky without pretentious while appearing intentional without ever losing its spontaneity.
Alphonso Bow may not be the type of flick likely to fill the multiplexes, but fans of Netflix's ongoing commitment to the indie filmmaker would do well to check out this film.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic