Bass Ackwards reminds us that whatever we think the road is about, the trip is probably about something else. Alternating between scripted action, improvision and the unpredictably spontaneity of vérité encounters, the film is the semi-autobiographical story of Linas Phillips and his old friends, costars and co-conspirators Davie-Blue, Jim Fletcher, Paul Lazar and Sean Porter. The film crosses the line between reality and fiction, incorporating the people and characters that Phillips meets on an unscripted and adventurous ride across America.
When humble Linas (Linas Phillips), kicked off of his friend’s couch and spurned by his lover, finds a forgotten van on a llama farm outside Seattle, he begins lurching east with nothing to lose. Slowly, the road eases him out of his relentless longing and into the moment. As his encounters with enigmatic characters take on subtly transcendent qualities, his shame and discomfort at being alone gradually give way to self-acceptance and connection. The dented, off-kilter vehicle, which valiantly, amazingly endures the journey, becomes a colorful metaphor for the human condition – our tenacity and hopefulness always tinged with imperfection. The utterly original, lyrical and visually exciting adventure has such a light touch that it quietly sneaks up and tugs you into an overpowering appreciation of being human.
It is true what the above regurgitated press release information says—the road trip in of itself is often about something else other than the eventual destination. At least really long road trips anyway—a few hours isn’t going to conjure up any interesting stories, but the lengthy ones are almost always going to bring up a few humorous anecdotes at least. In the case of Bass Ackwards, the kind of scripted/improve filled documentary/film we get a story that focuses entirely on the road. We’re given only the slimmest of story elements as to why our main cast member is even on the road to begin with, but it really doesn’t matter what the explanation was as it’s the road where the real story of the film happens.
Or rather, it should. It’s a terribly boring film at times, making you wonder why someone would even bother making such a film about the truly boring and repetitive elements of a road trip. There is the variety of characters to keep your attention occupied on of course, but even those get to be a bit much at times. It’s actually kind of a strange film in its pacing, as even though it exceeds an hour and a half it really feels much longer—which, yes, is a discredit to the film, but is also something that may have been intentional. I mean when do you go on a road trip and it doesn’t feel mind numbingly long? It may have been an inadvertent side affect I don’t know. All I know is as humorous as some of the characters (and llamas) are, it’s not enough to drive what is about as uneven as the old VW bus driven in the film.
It’s definitely a film to see if you’re into the whole Sundance festival (it apparently was an “Official Selection” of the 2010 festival) thing, but if you aren’t part of that crowd you may find it a bit pretentious or downright boring to watch. Either way worth a Rental.
New Video brings Bass Ackwards to DVD in a standard single disc DVD case with a disc that boasts art that mimics the cover. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and there is actually a decent collection of extras here. Video and audio is satisfactory, with a solid transfer from start to finish and an included DD5.1 mix, although since its mostly dialogue (mixed with a surprisingly good original score by Lori Goldston and Tara Jane O’Neil) you won’t get much of a workout from the surrounds.
Audio Commentary with Linas Phillips, Cinematographer Sean Porter, Davie-Blue and Film Critic Michael Tully
The Making of Bass Ackwards
Deleted Scenes and Bloopers
The commentary is, again, a tiny bit pretentious but offers a decent enough glimpse into the making of the film when paired with the featurette of the same name. Deleted scenes and bloopers are pretty forgettable, but as with the film itself it’s all worth a Rental if you’re into this type of film. It’s definitely not a bad film, but it’s still a bit on the strange (and yawn inducing) side.
Bass Ackwards is now available on DVD.