Cody Clarke, Ellie Aaron, Ben Wolf, Rob Goldstein, Jillene Anzanetta, Emelia Benoit-Lavelle, Robert Youngren, Jodi Verse
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
If Woody Allen and Jim Jarmusch were to have a love child, that child might resemble first-time feature film writer/director Cody Clarke.
Clarke, a New Yorker who raised about a quarter of the film's nearly $3,000 production budget through a Kickstarter campaign, isn't worried about flash or distraction or unnecessary conflicts with his cinematic debut, Shredder, a film in which he stars as Travis. Travis is a high school senior who has fallen out of love with writing simple acoustic guitar-based ditties in favor of practicing heavy metal. Shredder follows Travis through his ups and downs with friends, music and love interests.
I've always been a bit unusual in the sense that I've never been particularly fond of what I would often interpret as the rambling irrelevance of Woody Allen, a filmmaker who has had fleeting moments of brilliance surrounded by extended periods of self-indulgence and mediocrity. On the flip side, Jim Jarmusch is a stark and intentional filmmaker whose atmospheric and moody pieces aren't always marketable but are nearly always unforgettable.
Clarke leans towards the Jarmusch side of dialogue heavy stark naturalism, a style of filmmaking that is contemplative in nature and refuses to force conflicts upon characters for the sake of moving a film along. When conflicts do occur in Shredder, they feel naturally developed.
Travis floats through almost relationships with righteous Kate (Jillene Anzanetta), quirky Sarah (Ellie Aaron) and Amy (Emelia Benoit-Lavelle). The relationships aren't necessarily good or bad, doomed or magical. They come off rather simply as Travis trying to connect but never seeming to quite get there.
The film's music is a key component, and it works wonders with Clarke's relaxed direction and pacing. Shredder features a terrific soundtrack that alternately comes off as Plain White T's and Tenacious D on valium. Shredder was shot in black-and-white using a Canon T2i camera with natural lighting and locales made up entirely of cast member's apartments in New York City.
Shredder is mostly an even keeled film, never really stretching for emotional highs or lows. Clarke nicely captures this calm in his performance as Travis, a young man who seems to mostly try to think his way through life's major dramas without having to do any emotional calisthenics. While this may sound simple, it's actually quite impressive that Clarke can feel so fully present without resorting to unnecessary histrionics.
Among the key actresses, Jillene Ansanetta is the strongest player here and her scenes with Clarke exude a simplicity and innocence that gives their scenes a surprising emotional resonance despite the fact that very little happens. There is one scene in particular where both Clarke and Anzanetta display a lightly touching vulnerability that plays out absolutely perfectly. Ellie Aaron and Emelia Benoit-Lavelle also do a nice job, with Aaron getting most of the screen time with an intriguing side storyline involving her pedophile brother.
One of the greatest things about covering independent film is the opportunity to witness up-and-coming filmmakers practicing and fine-tuning their craft. Shredder is exciting to watch, because you can see this is a young man with a strong visual eye, a gift for dialogue and his own cinematic voice. Why take my word for it? Follow the link below and watch the film for yourself as Clarke has graciously made the film available for viewing.
Oh, and do yourself and Clarke a favor...donate to support his continued work!
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic