Phil Chambliss, Arkansas Auteur

August 7, 2008

The Devil’s Helper from the film The Devil’s Helper

I want to see more of these films, videos really, that Phil Chambliss has made for years with his coworkers from the rock quarry. The easy one to find, “The Devil’s Helper,” appeared in the Oxford American‘s 2007 Southern movie issue.  And it is a Southern movie: two ex-cons, jealous that they can’t get hunting licenses, go to burn someone’s deer stand.  Then Satan’s buddy shows up with a pitchfork, a filing cabinet, and a deal.

It’s hilarious and strange, and we would see more films like it if my neighbors would avail themselves of iMovie and cheap DV cameras.  Chambliss didn’t; he appears to have edited deck-to-deck at home, and did his music on a keyboard.  His movie feel handmade and warm: the only deer’s a still photo, and he reuses one shot three times in a row.

“The Devil’s Helper” feels like a tall tale with everyone in on the joke.  The actors can’t hide their smirks.  Rather than the precise compositions and craftsmanship people like me harp on, the camera just reveals personality. I could watch Chambliss’ ensemble all day.  It’s not unlike Hollywood movies: people watch for the actor, even if the movie sucks.  This one doesn’t, and I wouldn’t mind filmic locavores, hayriding to the multiplex for homegrown pone.

Two ex-cons whispering in The Devil’s Helper

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