Independent films have their own special allure in summer, when they stand in starkest relief against Hollywood's seasonal barrage of committee-made movies and outsized marketing campaigns. These films can remind us that risk-taking and defying expectations sometimes serve as their own rewards.
Selected by independent film news site Indiewire as the "best undistributed film of 2011" after showing at numerous festivals, The Color Wheel rolls into town for two showings presented by Chalmette Movies and the New Orleans Film Society as part of a city-by-city national tour. The second film by 28-year-old New Yorker Alex Ross Perry, The Color Wheel presents us with warring and verbally abusive siblings Colin (Perry) and JR (Carlen Altman, who co-wrote the film) as they take a road trip to retrieve JR's belongings from the apartment of the professor-boyfriend who just dumped her. The movie revels in its own awkwardness and seems designed to leave viewers disoriented and displeased. But it's nearly impossible to take your eyes off the screen.
Shot on grainy black-and-white film stock that recalls experimental works and European imports from the '50s and '60s, The Color Wheel also distills something very current, even if it's just the particular flavor of alienation and despair found among disaffected 20-somethings today. Colin and JR dislike themselves, each other, strangers and old high school friends in equal measure, but keep pushing forward with the apparent belief that something better is bound to happen sometime. There's a long and powerful single-shot scene at the end of the film that illuminates much of the chaos that comes before. But it's more disturbing than cathartic, and won't earn The Color Wheel a lot of fans. It's just not that kind of film. —KEN KORMAN