My friend John Yost has completed his first feature film Every Good Thing to Rust, available online for free viewing. Congrats, John; you’re my hero. More so since your movie’s actually quite good. Imagine how awkward it would have been if it sucked like that unfinished cowboy movie I tried to make with Brian & JP. If you don’t know these folk, just watch the movie. I’m biased, but some thoughts after the jump.
America used to have a sense of what an independent film was, first with Cassavetes and then Jarmusch as guiding lights. Going to the dying local arthouse in the 90s could yield anything– challenging, personal films like Henry Fool, Bang! and Sunday. Of course, two of those took almost ten years to hit DVD. In the meantime, “indie” became a marketing term for palatable, mildly quirky movies starring huge TV actors.
So the recent resurgence of actually independent films comes as a pleasant surprise. Critics love a semi-coherent movement, so most of the American ones have become “Mumblecore” films. Key examples: Hannah Takes the Stairs, Mutual Appreciation, and The Puffy Chair. Usually shot on video for a few grand, they focus on characters, tongue-tied youngsters doing their non-thing.
Every Good Thing to Rust has the same texture as these films, but that’s about it. They share the look of video: the images bite, with colors heavier than in life. While the Mumblecore films shoot freestyling actors like a documentary, “writing” dialogue on-set, Every Good Thing began with a tight script. John told me it had an almost 1:1 shooting ratio, quite a feat. Even better, the shots– even the mysterious, unexplained ones– feel like they are going after something. He knew what he wanted.
The plot– well, I just watched the thing and found myself entranced. It follows three friends. One moves away, then something happens. Society falls apart. Two try to find the other, crossing the evergreen forests of upstate New York on foot. It moves inevitably, but without telegraphing; the catastrophes take place off-screen. Though not a genre film by any means, some sequences have all the tension of a good horror film. John has a good eye for nature, and how we fit in it. The seasons’ passing marks the plot as much as the characters’ search for something authentic.
Stylistically, Every Good Thing shares more with Eastern Europe than its fellow Americans. Languid, flowing shots follow them through space. John has cited Gus Van Sant’s Elephant as an influence, and thus the film recalls Bela Tarr, too. This film style– my favorite– demands the viewer’s investment, but offers much more than just a story. Time becomes the story, in a way.
John has been giving the film away for free on his web site. But he’s said he’s got download-to-DVD deal worked out through Indiepix if that’s more your thing. And he is already hard at work on the next film. I’m looking forward to it.