12 June 2016 | Quinoa1984
Whatever you think of this, it's an original depiction of modern alienation.
Independent cinema didn't always make for a comfy home for big stars to do something "dramatic" even if it's only Oscar fluff or if it's some kind of micro-budget genre piece of whatever. When independent cinema fires on all cylinders, not all the time but often this is the case, you see a filmmaker without much (or any) interference and showing a vision of the world, a point of view, that is unique to them. We may be able to tap into it, or it may be difficult, but the vitality is the key thing (hell, even Gummo is something I have to acknowledge as a one-of-a-kind thing). Buzzard is like that; if it were out in the 90's it probably would have received a decent release in theaters (maybe 100 or more, at best, hopefully) and then found a home on video. Today it might have one or two theaters and go straight to Netflix. Which, if you catch the right 'Netflix and chill' couple on the right moment may not be a bad thing. Maybe. Maybe not.
Buzzard is as weird and off-putting as any indie I've seen in recent memory and a lot of it comes down to how the filmmaker Joel Portykus shows us this misfit Marty Jackitansky (sound a little like Rockitansky, the real name of Mad Max, just a thought, whatever). He's perhaps more than misfit: take a little of Travis Bickle, a little of Beavis & Butt-head (mostly the metal and horror movie obsessions but also the disaffection) and a lot of modern day slackerdom and you get Marty as a guy who lives on his own, has posters for Elm Street movies all over the place (even in his kitchen, nice production design touches!) and fashions his own Freddy Kruger knife-glove out of a Nintendo Power-Glove (which itself is a reference to Elm Street 6 - gotta love this director's indirect homage, but I digress).
He works at a temp job but barely and tries to do any little scams he can - that is as someone who is fairly unambitious in his thievery (i.e. ordering office products on the company dime that he can sell back at another store with a guy who's cool) - and then gets into some possible hot water over some checks. Again, not for any large amount, but it's the principle of the thing: the guy just hates, well, most things it seems, and spend a chunk of this narrative on a (halfway) work buddy's couch (the director Potrykus is this maladroit nerd).
It's a downward spiral kind of movie, and it's not an easy one to sit through. Matter of fact I think most people would find more to sympathize with in Bickle (at least he was a veteran in a sleazy city right?) and Marty is all about... well, who needs ambitions when you got the Freddy Kruger Power Glove and a Nintendo game system to play after all? And as the story goes on and he gets into further (albeit petty) criminal acts, it gets harder to feel empathy with him - one of the 'set pieces' involves an almost experimental-film level moment where he sits in a bathrobe in a nice Detroit hotel eating a plate of spaghetti leaning back in bed - but perhaps that's the idea.
Sometimes art is about challenging our notions how people live and what we might do in their situation. Marty doesn't have much in the way of morals, he does what he does so he can get by. Don't many Americans living in the paycheck-to-paycheck scenarios? I think that what the film may lack in outright comedy - sometimes I found myself laughing, usually over the childish griping between Marty and Derek in the latter's basement, mostly in the movie I was silent - it has oodles of in fascinating behavior. You feel uneasy about this, and it lacks an original score outside of the very occasional diegetic music. I found myself hooked into this man's journey towards destruction and all of his own self-imposed beats to keep himself into a pattern (this includes a couple of awkward phone calls to his mother, it's in these moments I felt the depth in Burge's mostly interior except when angry performance).
The very ending (like the last shot) is a little too perplexing for its own good (except to say, I guess, that doom will never leave him or something, it's too vague to make its point substantive), and not all of the non-professional acting is solid. Otherwise, Buzzard is an excellent, oddly ambitious and discomfittingly weird example of how to tell a story of very human self-destruction all with a guy who does every little trick he can to get by... until he can't. But hey, that's why he's got that glove!