(2005) dir. Andrew Douglas
This film just didn’t work for me. It seemed like an interesting idea, a tour of the South with alt-country musician Jim White (with whom I was not familiar prior), expounding on the realities of life down there.
White himself notes that he is an outsider, having moved there as a child, and though having grown up there and understood it to an extent, is not really a true product of the Southern universe. Director Andrew Douglas feels like a consumate outsider as well, relying entirely on White and a myriad of other narrators to give insight.
The film isn’t shooting for a definitive approach. No stats and figures or names or locations are served up. It is a somewhat loose ramble across the parts of the South that are not distinguished. But it’s the film’s attitude of trying to give some perspective on the ideas that ends up disqualifying its poetical approach.
The best example that I can think of in how this film totally misses the mark is the use of alt-country music folks who don’t stem from the South that much themselves, playing a music that reckons of “old timey” southern folk music, but doesn’t represent what these contemporary people really listen to. In fact, when the performers are playing in various locations, locals look strangely perplexed by the musicians and their work. Thus, the film’s perspective as the musicians, seem like hipsters attempting to feel the “real” South, whilst in the midst of people that they don’t understand at all.
The film reeks of pretention at times, in particular with its signiture shot, the Jesus statue that sticks out of the back of White’s Chevy as he toodles around. It’s meant to be highly symbolic, but like the rest of the film, it’s a total put-on, a projection, an interpretation that really fails to get what it’s attempting to address.