Posted: 10/01/2009

 

Frownland

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen




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Frownland is a strange movie that first time director Ronald Bronstein describes as a “rotten egg lobbed with spazmo aim at the spotless surface of the silver screen.” But the movie has gained both great raves and “scathing denunciation.”
Factory 25 has released Frownland on DVD, and the limited edition bundle features the original soundtrack on vinyl; with comic book; deleted scenes; fold-out movie poster; among other items.

Frownland follows Keith Sontag, played by Dore Mann, who’s described as a “neurotic, manipulative, stridently unlovable New Yorker.” Keith tries to save the world in his own way, while attempting to aid a suicidal friend, evict his roommate and above all attain some level of self respect.

Keith lives in a tiny apartment; so tiny that if you open the oven door, you’re bound to hit the bed, but his life is his life, and he manages to eke out an existence somehow. The apartment looks as if he’s moving out. But he’s not, it’s just that cluttered.

Frownland is truly an indie film that has that indie film feel. The movie opens with a scene on television from an old “creature-feature” movie, which is horrifying enough. But the lead in Frownland seems to lead a similar, lonely existence, even though he ventures out into the world in escapade after escapade, but it all seems that he finds himself in one convoluted situation after another.
Keith is a sloppy, haggard looking soul who really needs a makeover, and many scenes are filmed in sets that are as equally haggard looking. And while I noted that he seems to want to save the world, he needs saving himself.

Near the beginning of the movie, he rescues a female friend and allows her to sleep at his apartment. But for some reason, she’s allergic to the bedding, her faces breaks out, but she repays him by stabbing him in the arm with a push pin.
He goes to one co-worker’s apartment to retrieve something, only it seems he wants some company. He pretends that he has to use the bathroom, only to use the friend’s toothpaste and push his way into watching a silent film—in silence—with the friend, until the friend kicks him out of the house.

Frownland does stand out, because Frownland has that “it” factor that makes you want to keep watching, in hopes of figuring out just what’s going on! And in the bigger hope that Keith triumphs in the end.
In between the compromising situations in which Keith finds himself, he sets out to sell coupons for books that are somehow associated with multiple sclerosis. But he doesn’t seem to have much success. In one scene, where he tries to persuade a woman to purchase the coupons, he and the lady have an exchange where they compare relatives’ past chronic and terminal diseases.

Frownland is an off the beaten path film about a unique, off the beaten path character. This, in my book, seems to be a perfect fit.
Visit Web site factorytwentyfive.com or local DVD outlet for more information.


Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.



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