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Seed

This visually captivating spiritual road movie journeys across America asking the Big Questions about human existence with innovative cinematic form. First-time feature filmmaker Bobby Sheehan relentlessly chips away at the boundaries between features and docus with a contemporary Stan Brakhage-like pictorial panache and experimental sensibility. Provocative pic has philosophical and educational merit that will put it over with select intellectual/alternative audiences across the span of visual media venues.

This visually captivating spiritual road movie journeys across America asking the Big Questions about human existence with innovative cinematic form. First-time feature filmmaker Bobby Sheehan relentlessly chips away at the boundaries between features and docus with a contemporary Stan Brakhage-like pictorial panache and experimental sensibility. Provocative pic has philosophical and educational merit that will put it over with select intellectual/alternative audiences across the span of visual media venues.

Actor John Michael Bolger impersonates Francis Seed, an alienated man seeking the meaning of life. Ranging from Bukowski-esque barflies to mothers, heavy metal rockers, a jazz musician, teacher, student, dominatrix, rabbi, reverend, tarot card reader, gun shop owner, transvestite, street people and more, interviewees give totally unscripted answers to Seed’s questions, unaware that the man they are talking to is not, as he claims, dying, but rather a thespian playing a role.

Wandering the country seeking enlightenment, Bolger/Seed asks a variety of person-on-the-street nonactors about the meaning of life, love, faith, family, purpose. As he morosely muses, “I’m all on my own, and when I die, it’ll be like I was never here,” spontaneous replies range from poignant to insightful to hilarious.

After the full range of theological/cultish/personal interpretations have been heard, pic culminates with an ocean apotheosis reminiscent of the estranged Marcello Mastrioianni joining the dance of life in Fellini’s “8 1/2”: Seed strips and takes a leap of faith, plunging into waves at Santa Monica. It’s not a suicide attempt, as he merges with what Freud called “oceanic feelings of love.” Triumphantly reborn, Seed reemerges in waters a continent away, off Miami , and returns to his actual home, where he breaks on through to the other side, reuniting with Bolger’s real mother and uncle, playing his recently deceased father.

Sheehan turns what could have been a routine talking heads docu into a highly imaginative, collage-like, experimental epic. Animation, home movie shots, B&W, cross-processed, bleach-bypassed, highly saturated color scenes, digital compositing and other f/x give this inventive indie an impressive optical opulence.

Trying for something different, Sheehan invites comparisons to Errol Morris in his efforts at extending and transcending traditional notions of the documentary, just as, on the other hand, he follows in the line of the many fiction-based filmmakers who, since the ’20s, have attempted to burst the seams of conventional narrative devices.

Seed

Production: A Working Pictures production. Produced by Bobby Sheehan, Sara Feldmann Sheehan, Alex Albanese. Directed by Bobby Sheehan.

Crew: Camera (color), Sheehan; editor, Alex Albanese; music, Joel Goodman. Reviewed at L.A. Independent Film Festival, April 14, 2000. Running time: 75 MIN.

With: With: John Michael Bolger, Chuck Negron.

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