If I were to look for a way to try to describe the cinematic efforts created by Michael Glover and Robyn Rosenkrantz, a husband-and-wife team who perform and produce under the name Bright Blue Gorilla and whose last film Go With Le Flo screened at Indy's Heartland Film Festival, it would likely be something along the lines of "tribal cinema."
As I learned after having interviewed Glover and Rosenkrantz during the week they were in Indy for Heartland a couple years back, once you're in the Bright Blue Gorilla tribe you're pretty much in the Bright Blue Gorilla tribe. It's not a gang. It's not the mafia. It's Bright Blue Gorilla.
Bright Blue Gorilla films aren't for everyone. Indeed, even for those who were swept up in the welcoming spirits of Glover and Rosenkrantz (pretty much everyone) not everyone found themselves as swept up by the more cohesive and accessible Go With Le Flo. Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee is in most ways a simpler story, yet it's a less accessible and less cohesive effort from the Bright Blue Gorilla Team and the tribe of actors who bring their cinematic visions to life with vibrancy and spirit.
Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee circles around Mr. Rudolpho (Francesco Mazzini, Lose with English), a world famous Italian designer who becomes disillusioned with his shallow life and decides to commit suicide during Berlin Fashion Week, a decision that just happens to coincide with an inner coup within his empire with similarly nefarious plans. As one might expect, especially one familiar with a Bright Blue Gorilla Film, nothing goes as planned and Mr. Rudolpho finds himself taken in by an eccentric yet hospitable tribe of Bohemian artists, the Boheems, who live life off-the-grid but filled with life and spirit. Alive for the first time in years, now Mr. Rudolpho must only figure out how to actually stay that way. To move the story along, Glover and Rosenkrantz appear in the film as part Greek Chorus and part musical angels with musical transitions where most filmmakers would likely insert scenes of fluffy clouds.
There's a pretty good chance that you can already tell if Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee is for you. There's a pretty good chance your initial reaction is actually pretty accurate. Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee is quirky yet compelling, lacking in cohesion yet filled with a tribal spirit and a whole lotta fun even when the critical part of your brain is going "this doesn't work" and "that doesn't work."
Shot in English, German and Italian with over 300 artists from 30 countries, Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee is an exercise in relaxed cinematic mania, a film that even in its most hectic moments gives off more a spirited vibe than a chaotic one. While the film has moments of light action, the simple truth is that when you sit down to watch a Bright Blue Gorilla film you know very well that you're sitting down to watch good friends have a good time telling a good story with vibes that'll leave you feeling good long after the closing credits have rolled.
If I'm being honest, and I'm pretty much always being honest, I found myself more a fan of the warm, romantic and playful spirit of Go With Le Flo than Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee, though the two films share many common elements and even common cast members. Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee is, indeed, filled with the spirit of a jubilee, which for those not in the know, is an emancipation of sorts from debts and burdens. For Mr. Rudolpho, indeed, this journey is much more than the simple, quirky and musical journey that plays out but a freeing of his mind, body and spirit from the burdens of a shallow life without meaning.
I couldn't help but reflecting upon the film Inferno while watching Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee, or I should actually more accurately say the three films that we've been served up based upon the Dan Brown novels. This isn't because they share much in the way cinematically, but because in those films one of my most common complaints has been the awkwardness with which we're served up Tom Hanks and his non-American co-stars. As we listen to their dialogue delivery, everything just feels incredibly off pace and any potential for suspense or chemistry evaporates.
For some odd reason, that doesn't happen in a Bright Blue Gorilla film and it doesn't happen in Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee despite the obvious challenges of creating a film spoken in three languages involving a cast from 30 different countries. Oh sure, you still get the occasionally awkward pacing, but in a film like Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee it actually works to the benefit of the film. Ron Howard should probably sit down and watch a Bright Blue Gorilla film or two.
While the film centers around Francesco Mazzini's quiet yet winning performance as Mr. Rudolpho, the truth is that the area where director Michael Glover really excels is in building a cast with chemistry who've obviously caught the spirit. German television star Christiane Paul is an utter joy as Anja, a Boheem with whom Mr. Rudolpho catches a spark. The Boheems themselves are such an absolute blast that you'll find yourself wanting to go off-the-grid and head off to Berlin to find them. Stig Eldred (King Kong, Dick Tracy), who has a voice I could listen to for days, is the semi-calming mentor of sorts for the Boheems and he plays off perfectly with frequent Bright Blue Gorilla collaborator Denis Aubert, the awesomely fun Gregor Marvel, Dodo Nkishi, the warm Roberta Bianchini, Yann Grouhel, Laura Mitzkus and Mathieu Charrière.
It is the scenes with the Boheems where the film most lives into its spirit and vibe, though this is not meant to fault those somewhat comical baddies who make up the film including the terrific coupling of Frank Kallinowski and Michael Rothmann as two agents whom our musical angels sing into love.
The film's music is hit-and-miss this time around, with most music involving the actual cast and story resonating as fully as we've come to expect from Bright Blue Gorilla while the musical interludes, whether Greek Chorus or musical angels, feels inauthentic and too set apart to be effective.
For the most part, Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee continues the Bright Blue Gorilla tradition of bringing films to life that are tribal in nature and spirited in presentation and filled with an ensemble cast that seems to enjoy this opportunity to work with one another in a film more focused on the wonder and joy of being an artist than the commercial endeavors so often produced these days.
We all need a jubilee, of sorts. Mr. Rudolpho's Jubilee may very well guide you to yours.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic