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The Tampa Film Review for February †by Nolan B. Canova
Loren Cass: A Florida Indie Film Review †by Nolan B. Canova
Weird Magic in Sanford, FL! †by ED Tucker
Ginnie Springs - - Skunk Ape Central?...Just What Happened on the Wacaser Farm in 1956? †by William Moriaty
"Breach" †by Mike Smith
Concerts....The British Oscars....Passing On....Movie Notes....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 7: Josh Mostel †by Mike Smith
Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eighth calendar year!
Number 360  (Vol. 8, No. 7). This edition is for the week of February 12--18, 2007.

Loren Cass (2006)
Jonesing Pictures, Inc.
Written and Directed by: Chris Fuller.
Produced by Frank Craft, Chris Fuller, Kayla Tabish.
Starring: Kayla Tabish, Travis Maynard, Jacob Reynolds, Lewis Brogan, and Mike Glausier.
Color, Super-16mm, 83 min, filmed entirely on location in St. Petersburg, FL.
"Loren Cass"
  A Florida Indie Movie Review
   By Nolan B. Canova

Adolescents come to terms with their lives after the rebellions of 1996 Saint Petersburg.

Loren Cass

One of the little secrets of West Central Florida is that underneath a time-capsule world of retro architecture, clean streets, and retirees ambling around looking for the next early-bird dinner special, lies a city that's smoldering with young artists and poets and, while we're at it, a rather violent past. St. Petersburg. Yes, that's right, home of Sunken Gardens, St. Eckerd College, and The Biff Burger.

One of the darkest chapters of this otherwise sleepy town occurred in 1996 when a white police officer gunned down black motorist Tyron Lewis sometime during a routine car stop that got out of control. The ensuing race riots lasted for several days, completely unhinging that part of the city and leaving a scar on its map, to say nothing of the inhabitants who lived nearby.

Chris Fuller, at the time an impressionable 15-year-old, was one of those unfortunate residents who had to come to grips with the city's loss of innocence. His therapy, if you will, was to write a screenplay dealing with the young people of the day and how these events changed their lives forever. After a three-year revision process, financing difficulties, and a grueling shooting schedule, Loren Cass, the motion-picture, was born.

I've gone on record about my normal disdain for what might be called "coming-of-age" or "slice-of-life" films because I think they've been done to death---every generation produces a gaggle of them, because, I suppose, the students filming them are doing what they know with what's immediately obvious to them. I'm happy to say while Loren Cass may be technically shoehorned into such categories, it is like nothing I've seen before and that's a good thing.

Three adolescents, Cale Mitchell, Jason Ambrose, and Nicole Hayes, awake in Saint Petersburg, Florida, a ďdirty, dirty town by a dirty, dirty seaĒ (arguably the film's single best line). The city is plagued by uprisings on the Southside of the city after a young black motorist is gunned down by a white police officer. Itís 1997.

A brief tour of the local public high school yields glimpses of an alcoholic principle and a student loading a .357 Magnum in a bathroom stall. Cale and Jason re-ignite an old feud in the parking lot beginning a cycle of violence that will see an ugly end.

Cale meets Nicole after a series of near-misses when her car overheats near the auto shop that he works at. When she returns to pick it up, a late-night date begins that finds them both afraid of what might be happening. She leaves her number.

Jason rides the bus on his usual two-leg journey home and finds himself lost in dreams of hopelessness where voices, fires, and graves reveal themselves. Cale and Jasonís friendship drifts as Cale and Nicole get closer. She alternates between time with Cale and time with whoever else catches her eye.

Nicole immediately seeks out another guy after leaving Cale, Jason self-tattoos a girlís name on his forearm (the name "Loren Cass") and tries to become a martyr. Cale knows his relationship with Nicole canít go any further but seeks a resolution on her doorstep.

We follow The Suicide Kid to the top of a local landmark, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, one-hundred and ninety-three feet of the bay. He jumps.

Jason waits for a ride that never comes before returning inside his house, his home.

Before viewing the film, all I vaguely remembered from the press was it was about St. Pete at the time of the 1996 race riots. While that's true enough, the characters Chris Fuller's chosen to inhabit his screenplay make it more interesting than that, of course, and his greatest success is in portraying St. Petersburg as dirty, subversive, and uncaring city, while showing some of its famous landmarks like beat poet Jack Kerouac's house, the aforementioned Sunshine Skyway, the St. Pete Pier, the list goes on.

The image of St. Pete as that quiet time-capsule I referred to earlier is challenged and maybe even shattered after viewing Loren Cass.

Fuller's directorial decisions are quite bold: No opening titles, virtually no music track to speak of (except what is heard on car radios or something), long scenes with little-to-no dialogue, blacked-out scenes with much dialogue (almost non-sequiter type), and extremely pregnant pauses in the acting. But this is balanced against terrific camera angles and sharp-as-a-tack photography (serves as a testimonial for that 16mm Arri 16-SRII camera they used). Some of the fight scenes were staged using real contact fighters. Chris was going for broke getting these scenes to be as realistic as possible.

When we first meet our main girl, before we know her name the supposition is she is Loren Cass. But she is Nicole and while her story is central to the story we never find out who Loren Cass actually is, except the subject of Jason's self-inflicted tattoo.

I think these decisions were made to impose a sense of disorientation to the viewer occasionally, to aid in identifying with the characters. The inclusion of vintage video of Pennsylvania politician R. Budd Dwyer's on-camera suicide via a .357 Magnum was a touch of brilliance and underscores what's going on here.

I'm thinking Chris's idea the whole time was to make the title wind up being ambiguous. As ambiguous as his characters' lives' direction. I'm sure some viewers might see the random violence as gratuitous (especially the video of Dwyer's suicide), but that misses the point of what much of Loren Cass is all about: life, death, suicidal themes and the search for meaning in a world gone mad. So the title doesn't matter. For the film's 21-year-old director, that shows a lot of maturity.

Rating: Highly Recommended

Web: www.lorencass.com, www.myspace.com/lorencass

"Loren Cass: A Florida Indie Movie Review" is ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova. All photos used courtesy of Chris Fuller. I want to thank Chris for sending me the DVD of "Loren Cass" and related press materials.

All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.

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