When Kanopy sent an email celebrating their Joel Potrykus collection it didn’t mean anything to me until I scrolled down far enough to see that he had made a favorite of mine, The Alchemist Cookbook (2016). Ultimately, I fell for the promotion and decided to check out another one. Then I watched them all.
The first part of Potrykus’s Animal Trilogy is a short available on Vimeo. I love that it was made on 8mm which I like the look of anyway, but here, it also fits the content. “Coyote” hints at a werewolf story, but it’s also about addiction. What I like about Potrykus’s movies is their mix of tones and subject matters that ends up feeling like Chantal Akerman making a Troma movie. There’s even a dance scene reminiscent of Godard’s Band of Outsiders (1964) on a bridge that suggests the famous running sequence of that film.
I wrote about this one recently.
My only complaint about the movie is that the dialogue sometimes feels like Beavis and Butthead working in Office Space (1999). Too many dude/mans. The dialogue about work though is funny and cutting and sometimes sad. When Derek tells the protagonist Marty Jackitansky that he has the right-of-way because ”I’ve been here three months longer than you,” I howled out loud. As I watched these scenes play out with Derek, whose party zone is his parents’ basement, there is a sadness that creeps in, because I got the sense Derek is serious about what he’s saying.
Derek’s a jerk, but I can’t help like him. So much of this movie is about trying to live and enjoy one’s time while being broke and working in America.
The buzzard of the title is Jackitansky, played by Joshua Burge, the lead in all three of the Animal films. Jackitansky is living off the detritus of America, stripping what he can from capitalistic carcasses. Coupon scams. Checking account okey-dokes. Free cereal.
Potrykus includes bizarre horror aspects and stellar, poetic moments. There’s a sequence of Burge in a fluffy white hotel robe eating a pile of spaghetti and meatballs in real time that somehow works. The ending of the film, the last images, I thought were perfect.
Oh, and Jackitansky uses a Power Glove as a base for a Freddy Kreuger claw, which besides being a fun and striking image, reminds us that the movie is about the distribution of power and labor and independence–video games and dreams and the controllers of both.
A sci-fi version of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child or Beckett’s Endgame. I want to watch this again because it’s really rich, despite being told in one room (if I remember correctly). There’s something here about transformation or the inability to transform or take action.
The movie takes place on the eve of Y2K and the main character has been challenged to beat all the levels of Pac-Man by his abusive brother. He’s being filmed and he isn’t allowed off the couch. But that’s just a kind of surface story to the whole thing. Josh Burge makes me think of Buster Keaton trapped in a Saw movie.
The movie gets gross, but not necessarily gory.
Potrykus’s films are punk in some of the best senses of the word: an alienation and critique of society and the nature of work, with bonus humor and gross-outs. I enjoy his juxtaposition of high and low aesthetics. I also like that I never know what’s going to happen in these movies and he almost always nails the ending, the most difficult thing to do.
I’ve wondered if Potrykus grew up with Channel 50? He’s based in Grand Rapids, and I grew up in a few different places in Michigan, mostly near Flint, but Channel 50 showed everything. I always felt like it was a part of why my tastes range from no-budget to super-budget and from trash to art films.
Kanopy is a film service that’s free or free with certain limits through many libraries. I get six movies a month. They have a wide selection and have started a kids channel that I haven’t looked at since my kids run our other streaming platforms.