Friday, November 13, 2009

NY Greek Film Fest ’09: Shutterbug

It seems like a safe guess Minos Papas has seen Blow-Up a time or two. Even if he was unfamiliar with the Michelangelo Antonioni classic before he started filming his own feature about a professional photographer’s trippy experiences and bizarre visions, he has surely heard numerous references since then. Of course, Papas is not Antonioni, but at least he displays a notable visual sensibility in Shutterbug (trailer here), which premiered at this year’s New York Greek Film Festival.

Alex is an obsessive photographer who will do anything for a shot, including looking into the sun, which obviously you should not do (particularly if your livelihood depends on your vision.). At first, he just has a case of those persistent spots, but soon he begins having ghostly visions of a woman he does not recognize. Getting little help from an optometrist, Alex wanders into a storefront psychic’s reading room. She is not much help either, but refers him to a heavy-duty spiritualist who lives in a sketchy area around the Williamsburg Bridge.

In what are undeniably the strongest sequences of the film, Papas creates a haunted netherworld of lost souls (metaphorically) under the bridge. With his eyes literally playing tricks on him, Alex’s journey through that strange night is thoroughly disorienting and at times harrowing, quite impressively lit, shot and cut by Papas and his crew. Unfortunately, the cause-and-effect plot points getting him there make no sense whatsoever.

There is really no logic to be found in Shutterbug. Based on the events of the film, it is hard to even say you should not look directly into the sun (but truthfully, you really shouldn’t). Still, it is an interesting looking film, courtesy of d.p. Rossana Rizzo’s often hallucinatory lensing. Shutterbug also gets a strong assist from the Tao Zervas’s very Brooklyn sounding soundtrack. Unfortunately, it is undone at key moments by some visual effects that betray Shutterbug’s limited budget.

At times, Shutterbug really makes New York look new and strange. It also leaves audiences scratching their heads in bewilderment. Still, Papas clearly has a talented eye and a lot of potential as a filmmaker. Shutterbug has its merits and should be a portent of things to come.