Humpday, Brilliance, Exiles… it’s all about Seattle

The Seattle independent film scene may not exactly be the buzz of the festival circuit but it is making itself heard. This week, it echoed through the DVD new release rack, thanks to the simultaneous release of Lynn Shelton’s two recent films. But on a more personal (and much more self-serving) note, another Seattle fixture made his DVD debut this week: ME. Yes, I made my long-awaited (at least by me) DVD commentary debut on the Milestone’s superb two-disc edition of Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles, a forgotten landmark of genuine American independent filmmaking at its most personal and authentic. All kidding aside, this is a remarkable film and a tremendous DVD release, and only my modest participation in the project prevented me from putting it on my upcoming “Best of 2009 DVD” list. More later. First, let me celebrate the home video invasion of Seattle director (and my friend) Lynn Shelton.

Before she hit Sundance with Humpday, Shelton explored the complications of male relationships, specifically the “break-up” of old friends and the desperation with which one man (played by Harvey Danger’s Sean Nelson) attempts to reconnect, with My Efforless Brilliance (IFC), a slyly funny and wryly discomforting portrait. His motivations are less out of affection than ego—dude, he was dumped!—and Shelton is there to watch this relationship spins its wheels on Nelson’s glib, needy presence in all its understated humor. There’s not much narrative shape to the film but a tremendously authentic texture to the relationship. Nelson is a natural in the role, subtly establishing the sense of ego and vulnerability and self-aggrandizement in the character with brave intimacy, and Basil Harris is just as good as the old friend he attempts to woo back, resigned to Nelson’s pushy sense of entitlement and slowly falling into old rhythms of offhanded joking. Features commentary by Shelton with the stars and key members of her production team, a featurettes and deleted scenes.

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