Max Impact

The stylish Bellflower explodes off the screen

Bellflower ★★★☆ At 9:45 p.m. Friday, November 4, and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, November 6, at the Cinematheque 11141 East Blvd. Tickets: $9 216-421-7450 •

Bellflower may be packaged in garbage, but it delivers gold. It will either horrify you or captivate you in the same way a heaping portion of psilocybin mushrooms and crank would: with a crash-landing after a nonstop emotional and visual 105-minute rush.

Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and best pal Aiden (Tyler Dawson) spend their time drinking, trying to get laid, and planning for the apocalypse, after which their imaginary gang will freely roam the earth with the vehicles and weapons they've created. But that's only what Bellflower comes wrapped in. It's filled with the kind of people you'd avoid in real life, but can't keep your eyes off when they're onscreen.

The end-of-the-world setup turns into a love story, the love story turns into a Texas-bound road movie, and the car turns into a motorcycle. Gradually, passion destroys everything in its path, even though there's always a huge flame at the end of the tunnel.

Not only did star Glodell direct this stunning debut like a seasoned pro; he also designed and built the movie's Mad Max-inspired muscle cars, including Medusa, a 1972 Buick Skylark decked out with flamethrowers, surveillance cameras, and smoke screens, which makes it look, according to one character, like "a James Bond car for drunks."

In his apocalyptic madness, Glodell channels several master directors, but achieves his own singular mix. Bellflower, which is named after the avenue in Los Angeles where the movie was made, is a little like Amores Perros in the way it portrays how love (or sex) can change a person both mentally and physically, and in the skilled way Glodell deals with violence.

But even at its most repugnant, Glodell's violence isn't designed to shock or entertain; its effectiveness rests in the fact that he's always trying to make a point. He's like David Lynch in his use of symbolic, surreal, and non-linear imagery, and like John Hughes in his ability to make stupid people interesting. Meanwhile, cinematographer Joel Hodge paints the screen in yellowy-orange tones that turn up the heat. When the real flames finally appear, it's an epic feast for the eyes and the ears.

At times Bellflower looks like a frantic movie trailer, but the film strategically chooses when and how to move scenes back and forth in time. This is no Memento or Pulp Fiction, but something else — the refreshing approach of a new director to create something out of nothing. Yes, there's a storyline. But Bellflower isn't about that or the characters or even the actors, all of them newcomers perfectly suited to their roles. Bellflower is about the ride. So jump in and let yourself go.

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