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Making Metamorphoses

Life imitates art imitating life onscreen in indie drama "Making Metamorphoses." A reality/fiction-blurring frisson to a feature that's about a filmmaker (played by writer-helmer Christopher E. Brown ) struggling to complete one last project on his own terms.

With:
With: Christopher E. Brown, Paul Rigne Roach, Ravi Kline, Jill Pixley, Wedrell James, Shirley Bennett, Paul Silverman, Michael Eliopoulos, Jillian Mollett, Michael Mollett, Adryenn Ashley.

Life imitates art imitating life onscreen in indie drama “Making Metamorphoses” — and offscreen pic has followed suit, as its producers exercised legal right to create their own edit, 20 minutes shorter than writer-helmer-star Christopher E. Brown’s version (titled “Jesus of Cinema,” and not as yet publicly shown). All this intrigue ought to add reality/fiction-blurring frisson to a feature that’s about a filmmaker (played by Brown ) struggling to complete one last project on his own terms. But “Making” is a turgid naval-gazing exercise, and one doubts more of the same would provide greater reward. Commercial prospects are pallid.

A self-described perfectionist who cites Cassavetes, Charles Burnett and Elaine May as models for his “actors’ cinema,” Dylan Everett (Brown) insists on extensive reshoots for his latest film — a dreary-looking breakup drama starring loyal thesp-spouse Zoe (Ravi Kline) and equally battle-weary longtime collaborator Sam (Paul Rigne Roach) — even if the money has to come out of his own not-so-deep pockets.

The strain wears on all, especially since Dylan is simultaneously succumbing to terminal cancer. On-set spats, domestic discord and faux-nonfiction film-within-film segs (a separate crew is making a docu on the veteran “maverick’s” career) complicate talk-heavy narrative without inducing emotional involvement.

For all the pretentious yak about art vs. commerce, the Method and Dylan’s alleged stubborn genius, glum pic doesn’t suggest self-sacrifice so much as self-absorption at play both on and off camera.

Brown’s last feature, the B&W “Metal,” made far more accessible and poignant use of Cassavetes-style techniques than this thinly veiled, insular ego trip manages.

Script doesn’t really give the actors much to work with, substituting pregnant silences and stilted speeches for tangible character depth. Frequent rapid-fire editing tries to lend urgency to scenes and conflicts that just aren’t very engaging.

Low-budget, vid-shot effort’s tech aspects are adequate.

Making Metamorphoses

Production: A 21st Century Pictures Group presentation. Produced by Adryenn Ashley, Michael Feit Dougan. Co-producer, Clare Fontana. Directed, written by Christopher E. Brown.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Andy Lilien; editors, Michael Feit Dougan, Brian Chandler; music, Eva King; art director, Amber Morgan; costumes, Alison Chard; sound, Mark Brunner. Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Sept. 18, 2001. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) Running time: 82 MIN.

With: With: Christopher E. Brown, Paul Rigne Roach, Ravi Kline, Jill Pixley, Wedrell James, Shirley Bennett, Paul Silverman, Michael Eliopoulos, Jillian Mollett, Michael Mollett, Adryenn Ashley.

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