Just released via Distrify in association with Cine-O-Matic, Jason Schumacher's The Telephone Game
is an involving experimental cinematic adventure that actually works.
The Telephone Game
is a stark black-and-white feature filmed solely utilizing improvised dialogue. While the approach could have played out as nothing more than a gimmick, it instead gives the film a sense of uncertainty and urgency that works in its favor. The film opens with Marco (Wes Tank), a slightly arrogant stage director holding auditions for his latest production. When it appears that no one who tries out grasps the meaning behind his words, Marco decides to cast himself in the lead. Of course, it may also have something to do with his immediate interest in leading lady Zelphia (Haley Chamberlain).
With their burgeoning romance potentially complicating the production, Marco comes under ever increasing pressure from the production's producers and cast and, as time goes on, the entire production starts to spiral out of control. Before long, Marco's sanity is questioned and Zelphia begins to wonder if Marco is the same guy she fell in love with at the audition.
There's little denying the film's status as a low-budget indie, but Schumacher takes what could have proved to be quite challenging and makes it work for the film. D.P. Kipp Zavada's black-and-white camera work is exceptional throughout the film, somehow managing to give the film both a cinematic and staged feeling. Schumacher developed the story based upon a stage play by lead Wes Tank, and the film plays out very much like a dark, occasionally humorous glimpse inside the real world of theatrical productions. As Marco's world starts to crumble, The Telephone Game
gives us the supporting players who would be ready in a moment's notice to jump in and grab their moment in the spotlight. There's a vulnerability that's evident throughout the production, a vulnerability that seems borne out of the decision to improvise the dialogue and because Schumacher has cast the film really well.
Haley Chamberlain is a joy to watch as Zelphia, the kind of actress you fall in love with by just watching her work. One can easily see conflicts developing around her as everyone vies for her attention. Similarly, Wes Tank taps into the perfect vibe for playing Marco, a man with an undeniable ego yet a guy who exudes a certain charm that makes it completely believable why these two would end up together.
The Telephone Game
opened in October 2011 at the Edina (MN) Film Festival and has been building a name for itself leading up to its DVD release on Distrify on April 1st. The film is the second feature film from Schumacher, whose Stimulus
also got quite a bit of attention in 2007.
The film also features a nicely complementary original score from Matt Curney, while supporting players Rachel Grubb, Alisa Mattson and Andrea White are also top notch.
For more information on The Telephone Game,
visit the film's website listed in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic