ND/NF 2015: Tired Moonlight
Britni West takes the tried-and-true path with her directorial debut Tired Moonlight and films what she knows. Freewheeling the camera with DP Adam Ginsberg around her hometown of Kalispell, Montana, West collates a variety of poems from local dreamers and romantics into a cinematic (and brazenly American) quilt. The trouble is, it itches. Not that it doesn’t look great, which it absolutely does thanks to the felt aesthetic of Super 16 mm film; the kind you want to put your fingers through. The remoteness of middle America captured here is everything. And while the scenery shoots itself, West takes the extra step of complementing it with a score befitting cobwebbed elevators of some haunted castle, making the atmosphere dominantly present. The Herzogian mountain peaks in the opening are a perfect example.
The unscratchable itch is caused by how much engagement relies on the appreciation of the poetry, and the random back-and-forths between characters we never really spend quality time with. That’s where the film loses me. We see children, teenage mothers, Russian emigrants, and lonely people desperate to connect, but they’re silhouettes. Interactions, and the few grasps at narrative continuity, feel vapid. It’s a film disheveled at its core because it’s trying to be a poem, like a lost ship anchored to nothing, but its mumblecore roots and free-verse nature will definitely click for some. For me, Tired Moonlight is a satiating slice of American pie, one where the crust ends up tasting better than the filling.