Back Against The Wall
16mm, black and white, 94 min
"BACK AGAINST THE WALL is the strongest Fotopoulos I've seen. Initially predicated on the filmmaker's trademark repetitive routines, it concerns a grim slab of middle-aged beef jerky (Martin Shannon) holed up in a characterless apartment furnished mainly with cardboard boxes. Lying in bed, sourly awaiting the return of his young girlfriend (Debbie Mulcahy) from work, Shannon seems like a john in his own place.
Fotopoulos likes his low-rent Hopper compositions harshly lit and underscored by a persistent drone. Back Against the Wall's anonymous atmosphere, pointless conversations, and recurring set-ups hold the promise of sex (or at least violence). But the movie is all about unreleased tension. Shannon's other activities include playing chess and listening to the complaints of his no-neck friend (Ernie E. Frantz). When Mulcahy, who apparently works in a strip club, models a series of little nighties for Shannon, he scarcely looks up from his book to acknowledge her. While the viewer patiently waits to discover if the movie is Shannon's long crack-up or just a prolonged slow-burn, Fotopoulos fastidiously maps a little corner of hell-brutal depression is mocked by the wind-up clown sitting on Shannon's night table.
Once Mulcahy leaves Shannon for a marginally livelier, more appropriate sleazemeister, the film's tone shifts first to the blandly inane and then the cumulatively insane. Mulcahy's new boyfriend is a would-be pornographer in hock to the mob-he gets beat up but won't tell her why. This fatal association leads to an extravagantly long scene on what could be the set of a porn film (half a dozen women making up, snorting coke, and sitting around in costume). The eventual payoff is far more grotesque. Mulcahy meets her depressing fate-or is it a happy ending?-in a No Exit motel room with Frantz." -- J. Hoberman, Village Voice
16mm Rental: $200.00
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