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netribution > features > reviews > back against the wall

by Will Timbers | November 30th , 2001

Back Against the Wall

Director - James Fotopoulos,
Cast - Debbie Mulcahy, Martin Shannon, Ernie E. Frantz
Running Time - 94 mins

In a recent interview Fotopoulos has a dig at AIF (American Institute of Film) students for inheriting the "filmmaker's badge of problems." He was referring to an over elaborate and difficult shot they were attempting when shooting a short film simply because they were filmmakers and that is what they should do. It is perhaps surprising that he should make a film that begins as an ersatz copy of Eraserhead, directed by ex-AIF student David Lynch. However times change, and just as the young Lynch was never one for an over elaborate shot neither is Fotopoulos.

Back Against the Wall has a very claustrophobic feel to it: long static camera shots and two second pauses between deadpan speakers. It felt as though Andy Warhol had bumped into David Lynch in a seedy nightclub and they had concocted this film over a glass of semi-skimmed milk. If you are not a fan of either of these two directors Back Against the Wall is not your cup of tea. For those that are, perhaps you will be more forgiving of the withdrawn acting, which borders at times on the living

dead, threatening to destroy any kind of atmosphere the film tries to create. The comparisons to Lynch and Warhol are generous. So what happens? Well, the plot revolves around Debbie, a lingerie model, who, after getting out of an excruciatingly boring relationship with one boyfriend, slips into a world of criminals and pornography with another. Fotopoulos says, "People have no sense of identity... they live virtual lives." I assume that is an explanation for the acting. He also believes that people live in denial of death, to be frank, watching this film is enough to make anyone live in hope of death.

There are some redeeming features. The scene with old timer David sitting at a table with his young whore, letting out little spurts of purrs and meows. For once the deadpan acting works to subtly humorous effect. There is also Ed, 'the man with the woman hands,' a weird looking potato-head guy with no neck, who holds the viewers attention in his own dumb kind of way.

To be honest this film was not a complete flop but I paid more than seven quid to watch it, and for that amount I expected something better. Though Fotopoulos does have genuine potential, in this film he is let down by too many "filmmaker's badge problems." However, the over elaborate shot is not one of them.

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