Early this morning “Actionman” passed along a review of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead‘s Spring, a genre-straddling thing (i.e., romance + horror) which popped last Friday and which he’s calling his favorite film of the year so far. “Action Man” will sometimes err on the side of enthusiasm, but Spring has an obviously respectable Rotten Tomato rating of 92 and a Metacritic tally of 68. I’m not exactly a fan of Lou Taylor Pucci (partly because of his name — explained below) but I’ll probably give this a whirl tonight.
“The less you know about Spring the better off you’ll be,” he begins. “This is an incredible, unnerving piece of romantic drama science-fiction, a film that’s as rich in atmosphere as it is in layered character development, with a dash of speculative fantasy, a ton of honest heart and emotion, and some truly icky and spectacular special effects.
“Spring feels like the trippy after-effects of Richard Linklater and H.P. Lovecraft getting together to combine talents and forces. Multi-hyphenate wonderboys Justin Benson (co-editor, co-producer, co-writer, co-director) and Aaron Moorhead (co-editor, cinematographer, co-producer, co-writer, co-director) borrow the walking and talking aesthetic from Richard Linklater‘s Before Trilogy, and fuse elements of psychological and physical horror that would make David Cronenberg proud; this film is as thought provoking as it is visually arresting, and it’s a piece of work that will likely hold up extremely well over multiple viewings.
“If you know anything about my film tastes, you’ll know it takes a lot for me to get really excited about a horror film. And while Spring is certainly horrific, it has so much more on its mind than just grossing out the viewer with cheap gore and gotcha! scares. When the ideas are this exciting, the performances this involving, and the filmmaking this confident, you can’t help but take notice.
“Evan (the unassuming, quietly awesome Lou Taylor Pucci) has just lost his mother to cancer in the film’s painful opening scene. To get over the loss, on a whim, he decides to go to Italy, just to get away from it all, see something new, gain some new experience. He lucks into a room in an old olive farm run by a very old farmer (a perfect Francesco Carnelutti, exuding both mystery and poignancy), and while walking around this picturesque village he’s found himself in, he has a chance encounter with the alluring and sexy Louise (Nadia Hilker, a performance for the ages), who just so happens to be more than just the prototypical Italian beauty.
“Pucci and Hilker have tremendous chemistry with one another, and both are asked to run a gamut of emotions, and I have to say I loved every single creative choice made by this film, from the ambient, Social Network-like score, to the consistently stylish imagery, to the reliance on practical special effects which were then augmented (not dominated) by CGI. There’s humor, there’s sex, there’s sadness, and by the end, there’s something that approaches the magisterial. Spring is so much more than just a sexy-female-monster movie.
“If you’re going to go out on a limb with your story, the filmmaking and storytelling chops have to have a certain integrity, and that’s why I loved Spring so much — it felt so confident, so assured, so totally all of a piece. The gauzy, dreamy, 2.35:1 cinematography immediately engrosses the viewer, and Moorhead’s ability to convey terror through silent, ominous shots of the Italian landscape is terrific. I loved how he was constantly juxtaposing the inherent beauty of the Italian coast with all of this nightmarish imagery.
“The way Spring concludes made me clap in my living room — that’s how much I loved the final beats. This is the kind of film for anyone who is looking for something a bit unusual, something that’s not interested in playing by the normal cookie-cutter set of rules. So far, it’s the best film I’ve seen in 2015.”
Spring was primarily shot in Polignano a Mare, Italy — a smallish city located on the Adriatic coast, down near the heel of the boot, not far from Brindisi.
My Lou Taylor Pucci problem: He’s a good actor but he always seems to be wearing his heart on his sleeve in some indie film. He needs to suck it in and play sullen and cool and get into a James Dean attitude. On top of which he’s around five-foot-seven, which is not a felony but for some reason it bothers me here. This has not been a problem at all with any number of short-stature actors (Dean, Dustin Hoffman, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd) but for some reason it’s a problem with Pucci. He’s just doesn’t seem steely or snarly or flinty enough.
On top of which the name “Lou Taylor Pucci” has always bothered me. Just as Marion Robert Morrison would have bothered me also if the actor we know as John Wayne hadn’t decided to change his name. I’m sorry but Lou Taylor Pucci has to be one of the least intriguing or melodic-sounding names in the movie universe. Some names sound right and others don’t. I’m really not trying to be a jerk but Lou Taylor Pucci is the name of a grocer or a gym teacher or an insurance salesman — it doesn’t sound like an actor.
If LTP had only decided to drop “Lou” when he started out. Lou is a mid 20th Century blue-collar name. There’s something oafish about it despite the coolness that Lou Reed brought to the table. Lou Costello was a good fit. I don’t know what guys named Lou do these days but in the mid-to-late 20th Century they were bookies or cab drivers or bartenders or plumbers or hardware-store clerks or cousins you didn’t want to hang out with. Lou = Ralph, Bernie, Leo, Sid, Vince.
I don’t much like the name Pucci either. Reminds me of the French term for flea — “puce.” Pucci, pooch, smoochy. Doesn’t work.