|8:30PM||Live Music by J. Allen|
North of South, West of East (Meredith Danluck | USA | 82 min.)
Four characters, four screens. The audience immersed, as stupefied as in a shopping mall electronics shop. Your attention flickers, trying to take it all in, not miss crucial details. The work seems unlimited in all directions, and it’s dazzlingly overwhelming. But you adjust to the overload. You realize the sound design is gently guiding your attention from screen to screen. You can make your own interpretations, even your own edit, your own film. So you discover moments that seem like outtakes: delightfully unexpected, notable non-incidents in the character’s lives that would usually be off-screen. But here, there is no off-screen. Rooftop Films and Meredith Danluck are transforming MetroTech Plaza into one giant surround-screen.
North of South, West of East is a unique cinematic event that tells four stories, but is one coherent film, with plots that are compelling, funny, twisted and insightful. A portrait of post-modern America (or “post-hope,” as Danluck describes it), the four cardinal directions of the title imply both a sprawling cross-continental landscape film and a film located exactly nowhere (where is “north of south”?). The four characters represent archetypes of American struggle: the auto-worker (Ben Foster) and the cowboy (James Penfold), the out-of-work actress (Sue Galloway) and the hustling immigrant (Erik Quintana). Each are comically out of step with the times, stumbling into epiphanies. Galloway’s disarmingly dim-witted ways lead her on a misguided Mary Kay makeup mission, but when she’s literally run off the road, she discovers her inner sassiness. Foster’s gas-huffing grease monkey is clearly looking to delude himself, but uncovers within the underbelly of Americana a genuine weirdness he could never fantasize.
Inspired equally by late-night television and avant-garde cinema, in dividing the viewer’s attention Danluck creates an experience that is fragmented and ephemeral, fitting for the story’s themes. Like the characters on their road trips, the audience has agency in their choices — but you’re just as likely to disappear into your lifelong dream as you are to get smacked in the face with cold french fries. Either way, it could only happen here, wherever here is, in America.
- Mark Elijah Rosenberg