Review: ‘Lord Byron’

Experimental pic's sense of transgressive mischief eventually seems more like juvenile delinquency.

Even the most open-minded auds will eventually run out of patience with experimental pic “Lord Byron,” a provocative collage whose only connection with the eponymous poet is the creation of romantic fantasies — most of them inside the heads of the film’s rich catalog of low-life Louisianans. Built around unreliable narrators, delusional Southerners, incongruous music and outright lies, pic’s sense of transgressive mischief eventually seems more like juvenile delinquency. Pic will be a hard sell in any format.

Purposely fractured story format follows the not-quite-Homeric odyssey of Byron (Paul Batiste), a morbidly obese fantasist who lives with his snarling ex-wife (Renee King), her two daughters (Kayla Lemaire, Gwendolyn Spradling) and her boyfriend (Christopher Reinhart). “I always had a thing for women,” Byron says during one of his various voiceovers, and his sex life indeed is rich — so rich, you know you’re being taken for a ride, and that helmer Zack Godshall is setting us up for an exercise in refreshed perception: Accompanying Byron with a burst of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” may make a sort of twisted sense on paper, but in actuality it’s wildly inappropriate, the drama of the music setting the viewer up for things that never happen. What one eventually sees is that Godshall is in the business of misrepresentation, lampooning everything in his sights, including the general viewer’s inclination to accept what is onscreen as conventional narrative. As the real Lord Byron wrote, “Deny nothing, but doubt everything.”

It’s not that “Lord Byron” isn’t a smart film. It just goes on too long, with too many unnecessary tangents that diminish the potency of the director’s thesis. The roughness of the production values certainly serve the story, such as it is, and Godshall shows an deep intelligence, one that will likely find a more coherent outlet than “Lord Byron.”

Lord Byron

Production

A Calponian Films presentation of a Zack Godshall/Ross Brupbacher production. Produced by Godshall, Brupbacher. Co-producer, Kenneth Richard. Directed, edited by Zack Godshall. Screenplay, Godshall, Ross Brupbacher.

Crew

Camera (color), Godshall; music, Ross Brupbacher; costume designer; Allisa Brupbacher; re-recording mixer, Larry Black. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Next), Jan. 23, 2011. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Paul Batiste, Renee King, Gwendolyn Spradling, Kayla Lemaire, Christopher Reinhart, James Wise, Eric Schexnayder.
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