Set in the period just before cinema’s iconic rebel made it big, homoerotic mood piece “Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean” pictures the thesp as a bisexual hustler with a crippled soul, pursuing his dream of stardom through trysts, tanning and acting class. Reappropriating both Dean and the ’50s, tyro helmer Matthew Mishory utilizes self-consciously arty, black-and-white lensing that provides certain satisfactions, but these quickly fade once the thesps open their mouths. Gay fests and niche distribs will be the most gratified.A prologue featuring French poet Rimbaud underlines Mishory’s vision of the American actor as part of a line of iconoclastic artists. But his pre-fame Dean (James Preston from TV’s “The Gates,” evincing zero charisma) seems more sullen brat than talented maverick as he lolls around the pool of predatory agent Roger (producer Edward Singletary Jr.), reads “The Little Prince” in cheap digs shared with an acting-class chum (Dan Glenn), hangs on the words of his theater prof (David Pevsnor) and gets down and dirty with men and women. Sharp lensing, which includes Super 16 and Super 8 color accents, leads a solid indie craft package.
An Iconoclastic Features production in association with Jay-X Entertainment, MGDB Prods. France. (International sales: the Film Collaborative, Los Angeles.) Produced by Edward Singletary Jr., Randall Walk, Robert Zimmer Jr. Executive producers, Jay Xudan, Sharon Coryell, Lauren Cribb Gropp, Troy Kelly, Denis Michael Reidy, Elizabeth Shober. Co-producers, Paul Lee, Alexa Sau. Co-executive producers, Miguel Angel Nakamura, Arlene Ray, Cathy Singletary, Cheryl Singletary, Edward Singletary Sr. Directed, written by Matthew Mishory.
Camera (color/B&W, 35mm/Super 16/Super 8), Michael Marius Pessah; editor, Chris Kirkpatrick; music, Arban Severin, Steven Severin; production designer, Samuel Perone; costume designer, Rob Saduski. Reviewed on DVD, Seattle, June 6, 2012. (In Seattle Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 92 MIN.
James Preston, Edward Singletary Jr., Dan Glenn, Dalilah Rain, David Pevsner. (English, French dialogue)