Review: ‘Buttons’

Compiling a video album of everyday city sights, Josh and Benny Safdie ("Daddy Longlegs") and Alex Kalman have strung together a multitude of unrelated snippets, most lasting mere seconds, preceded by descriptive title cards.

Compiling a video album of everyday city sights, Josh and Benny Safdie (“Daddy Longlegs”) and Alex Kalman have strung together a multitude of unrelated snippets, most lasting mere seconds, preceded by descriptive title cards. Though leitmotifs occasionally appear (puns about canes announce a succession of cane-using passers-by), the pic follows no discernible logic aside from vague rhythm and flow. Filmed in two time-separated “volumes” with a cheeky 10-minute countdown intermission (the film otherwise lasts only 81 minutes), “Buttons” screens today in New York before landing in libraries and DVD bins.

Mainly shot in Gotham, the first part of the pic in 2008, the other in 2009, the film constitutes an attention-deficit version of urban tone poems like James Agee’s “In the Street.” Though certain scenes coax laughs (two girls play ping-pong with a basketball, under the heading “having brought the wrong equipment … “), most offer purely phenomenological interest, the images triggering heightened awareness of discrete impressions. “Buttons” ends with an artfully edited setpiece: An anonymous gray-haired man on a subway bench regales surprised fellow-travelers with a powerfully sung (lip-synched?) rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid Draw Back Your Bow.”

Buttons

Production

A Red Bucket Films production. Produced by the Red Bucket Film Collective. Directed, edited by Alex Kalman, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Kalman, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie; editors Kalman, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie; contributors, Sammy Lisenco, Elenore Hendricks. Reviewed on DVD, Aug. 29, 2011. Running time: 91 MIN.

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