Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 28 April 2010
Source Projected DVD
Categories The 2010 Independent Film Festival Boston
Bass Ackwards depicts a road trip from Seattle to Boston. In theory this sort of narrative will take us from location to location, backdropping each scene with picturesque compositions from each stop, visualizing the story. This doesn’t precisely happen. One in a constellation of stops is disclosed on occasion, but the film, for the most part, remains abstract, analogizing any sense of location with the emotional disorientation of the main character.
This character, Linas (the film’s director, playing himself), is going through a crisis of inspiration. When he’s introduced, filming a wedding in Seattle, he seems happy enough: he’s crashing at a friend’s place (in a rather cramped extra room), and he’s got a pretty girlfriend. In short order, he’s asked to move out, and his girlfriend’s live-in boyfriend becomes aware of her affair with Linas. Hence, road trip.
Linas obtains a Volkswagen microbus – which becomes a visual gag in how repeatedly its front bumper smacks into an incline – and sets forth to define his identity, absent a place to stay, a partner, or stable work. Remarkably, once he begins driving, it actually feels like we’re on the road with him, meandering from place to place, settling on seedy hotels, and idling lots in that pitiful little van.
The destination in a story like this is found via introspection. Regardless, this existential conceit shouldn’t permit the bland location photography or the irrelevance of some of the supporting characters Linas meets. The whole film is right on the verge of exasperation, and one senses that it may have been culled from authentic, inherently unpredicted experiences on an actual road trip—this, in principle, doesn’t ensure a good movie.
Linas Phillips’ previous film Walking to Werner (unseen by me) concerned a similar trip by foot, from Seattle to Los Angeles, to meet Werner Herzog. The trip was a deliberate emulation of one of Herzog’s most noteworthy feats, in which he traveled by foot from Munich to Paris (in 1974; his diary of this adventure is published in Of Walking in Ice). Bass Ackwards is similarly allusive to Herzog, whose 1977 film Stroszek it resembles in description only. But a comparison clearly illustrates how much more Phillips can glean from his most obvious mentor.
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