Wadeck’s Mother’s Friend’s Son” neatly crosses downtown New York hipsterism with a vaguely absurdist Eastern European sensibility, giving rise to a genially offbeat romantic comedy of societal displacement. Despite obvious low budget and technical limitations, a venturesome distrib could probably get a little mileage out of this with shrewd handling in top urban markets and university towns.
Writer-director Arnold Barkus toplines as Anton, a naive, obnoxious Polish sailor who invades the lives of two other foreigners–the comely Parisienne Barbara and her antic, overbearing Polish roommate, Wadeck.
Barbara’s Lower East Side apartment is too small for the three of them, so the crazed Wadeck soon departs. Unwanted and quite without prospects in the U.S. , the nutty Anton conveniently manages to miss his boat back to Poland and thus stays on.
When Barbara faces a visa crisis that will mean her expulsion from the country within a week, Anton swings into action, towing her around town and asking every guy on the street if he’ll marry her.
Somewhat surprisingly, this approach works, after a fashion, and the three immigrants–along with Barbara’s rich and strange new husband–eventually find themselves, in a melancholy but hopeful mood, on the lush but rather inhospitable terrain of California.
The specter of Jim Jarmusch, and particularly “Stranger Than Paradise,” hangs unavoidably over the proceedings, with its low-rent but carefully composed black-and-white images, cuts timed for their offbeat comic rhythms, foreign characters and below-Houston Street settings.
As with Jarmusch’s indie hit, “Wadeck” started life as a half-hour short became a feature only after Barkus had raised more coin over the course of a couple of years.
Setting the film apart are spritely performances by Barkus, initially irritating but ultimately winning as the bell-bottomed, goateed, irrepressible Anton, and the sweet-faced Zazie Dinev as the game, lively Barbara.
In a delightfully off-the-wall sequence entirely unlike anything else in the film, a begowned Barbara sings of her need for an American husband, surrounded by beefy, scantily clad men in a steam bath.
Of particular note in a film of this scale is the outstanding soundtrack–and not just Jonathan Sampson’s distinctive score. Subtle city sounds and noises have very intelligently and humorously been laid over certain scenes, considerably enriching pic’s texture.
Story turn involving Barbara’s marriage makes little sense from the man’s POV , and many of the scenes exist entirely for their modestly whimsical import. But Barkus displays a definite knack for writing, directing and performing off-kilter comedy, and he should be heard from again.