Twentysomething housemates with little in common forge a sort-of friendship in Aussie talkfest “Burke and Wills.” An engaging if minor dramedy about male bonding and emotional crisis management, pic reps a steady bow for helming-writing-acting duo Matthew Zeremes and Oliver Torr, operating here under the moniker Cake. Self-funded, largely improvised 16mm B&W item has been unsighted since it was shot in 2003 and receives a lifeline at the Tribeca fest, where it world preemed April 27. Marketplace realities dictate a tough passage ahead.
Title characters are named after the ill-prepared European explorers whose demise on a cross-continental trek in 1861 is taught to every Australian school student. Though not traveling much farther than the local cafe, this Burke and Wills share their namesakes’ maladroit handling of life’s challenges.
Unemployed Wills (Zeremes) has outstayed his welcome with g.f. Eleanor (Elizabeth Richmond) and her fed-up mom. Newspaper classifieds lead him to Burke (Torr), a taciturn, slightly creepy type with a room to rent and little cheer to offer his talkative new tenant.
In a series of deadpan blackout sketches highlighting thesps’ considerable improvisational skills, the duo inches closer over beer-assisted backyard conversations about cooking, proper masturbation etiquette in shared households and the importance of satisfactory toilet visits. To pic’s credit, both laughter and wry observations are produced from these detours into scatological humor.
Brief subtitled sequences relating to Burke’s inheritance from his recently deceased grandmother may leave auds scratching their heads. More agreeable developments include Wills meeting chirpy Lisa (Hannah Durrack) and landing a job selling cellular phones for bull-headed boss Brett (Ashley Lyons).
In film’s most satisfying passage, Brett drops the tough-guy act long enough to tell Wills the sad story of losing the only woman he ever loved. The confessional is poignantly intercut with Wills at his favorite cafe table, dallying at first with his new squeeze and then with Eleanor, who’s reappeared on the scene.
No budgeter’s tech package is fine. Standout contributor is composer Human Sixbillion, whose morbidly humorous ditties cover the odd flat patches. Film will screen at Tribeca on a PAL HD tape transfer, with a consequent running time of 72 minutes.