Sunday, July 20, 2008

Trees Lounge (1996)


I still can't stop thinking about Trees Lounge (1996). Steve Buscemi's directorial debut that he also wrote and stars in is a wonderful little slice of Americana that is both a poignant and heartfelt in its portrayal of a small town and the afflictions of alcoholism. There have been many films that depict alcoholism and Buscemi's film may just be one of the most honest accounts ever made since Blake Edward's Days of Wine and Roses. His minimalist style of filmmaking captures the miniscule details of everday life in this town and what seems to be irrelevant little moments in these characters lives become much more meaningful as the story progresses. Buscemi is naturally funny in anything he appears in (one look at him and I can't help but laugh) but in this film his familiar peculiar eccentricities clash with a plaintive melancholy that creates an interesting dichotomy; his character Tommy is an alcoholic loser that shouldn't receive any sort of reverence and yet it's difficult not to pity him. Tommy is someone that is easy to condescend to with mockery and there are plenty of very funny moments but Buscemi usually contrasts this with painful sorrow. At times it's difficult not to laugh at how pitiful his character is and then suddenly there will be a full reversal where you just want to give him a big hug and tell him everything's going to be "ok". Buscemi maintains a a casual pace to his film, letting the characters tell the story rather than implementing various plot devices. The film may be simple in its execution but remains purposeful. He tells a simple story and finds those common moments and emotions which we've all experienced and can connect with. He lets the moment breathe and the characters grow with the natural progression of the story. There are no strings here, no obvious mechanics. The high calibur of the craftsmanship is on full display throughout but the focus is on the people, the characters, the environment they inhabit and the shaping of their lives. Buscemi is more interested in creating genuine emotion through his characters and succeeds admirably.

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