Indie film-maker Jim Sikora is new to me. Barrel Entertainment have released this low budget trilogy of down-and-out tales, along with his (arguably) better-known BULLET ON A WIRE.
This is Virgin territority, so excuse the ignorance - but here goes ...
The film opens with lots of moving, hand-held shots of - appropriately - Chicago's many walls. But these are walls not usually seen by tourists ... this is Sikora's home city's seedier underbelly, chock-full of poverty and graffiti. And, even, better, it's all set to the agreeable Jazz-noise of The Dennison-Kimball Trio.
Next we see dishevelled amnesiac Ed (David Yow, best known as singer with The Jesus Lizard), ambling into a quiet bar and finding himself a convenient stool for the day. If you've seen or heard of Yow's electric stage presence, this is a urprisingly competent and restrained performance in comparison.
After a brief philosophical chat with another drunk (a little cringely scripted, to be honest) Ed meets the attractive Regina (Sikora regular Paula Killen) and agrees to retire with her to her sparsely decorated appartment. Once there more drinks flow, the atmosphere becomes more aggressive and a grim denouement looms heavily ...
Entitled FLY ON THE WALL, the first segment of Sikora's triptych benefits from the realistic performances of Yow and Killen, and Sikora's obvious knowledge of the type of inner-city losers h loves to write about. Look out for Sikora too, playing the bartender!
LOVE AFTER THE WALLS CLOSE IN follows, and is based upon a Charles Bukowski short story called REUNION.
Tony Fitzpatrick stars as Harry, a rogue just released from prison and looking to reconcile with former love Madge (Killen, again).
Harry is the type of fuck-up we've unfortunately stumbled across far too many times in the past. Incapable of expressing his emotions in the way that he wants to, he becomes frustrated by his own insecurites and failings. As a result, he blames Madge of sleeping around and, despite her convincing denial, gives her a good hiding.
Fitrzpatrick nails his role frighteningly.
The third and final story is entitled ONE TIME SHE PLAYED THE B-SIDE.
In B-SIDE, Killen (yep - again!) portrays Virginia, an office worker who takes a long lunch in a local bar where she meets Charlie (Bill Cusack, brother of John and Joan).
Fantasising about kicking off a relationship with Charlie, Virginia's vision somehow turns nasty when her dream boyfriend turns into an arsehole and a misunderstanding over five dollars ends in violence.
WALLS is a grainy, gritty affair. It's also, as the above synopsis surely suggests, as bleak as hell.
The perfomances are solid, the dialogue feels real and unapologetic, and Sikora's hand-held camera work has an urgency to it that keeps things nauseatingly authentic ... you can almost smell these drop-outs!
Barrel's transfer is as good as you can expect from a no-budget production shot on 16mm. The picture isn't overly sharp and minor print damage is evident. But this type of film benefits from such scuzziness ... if that makes sense?!
Audio-wise, the mono soundtrack had a slight hiss prevalent, but it's not too distracting as a whole.
The film has been graced with 16 chapters, which can be navigated through via a static menu page.
As far as extras go, Barrel have never let us down in the past - and they're not about to start doing so now!
First up is an engaging commentary track from Sikora, Yow, Killen and fellow cast member Jeff Strong. It's an affable affair, and a great listen for anyone wanting a few tips on underground film-making.
Sikora directed a video for rock band Tar's LES PAUL WORRIES - and it turns up on this disc. Again, it's grainy hand-held footage - this time of guitars getting trashed, the band rehearsing etc. Good song, if a little long at 5 minutes.
Four short films directed by Sikora follow:
XMASS 1973 diaries a hippy taking LSD and beer, then sitting down to get freaked out by IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE on the TV. This is worth watching, if only for the worst James Stewart impersonation ever!
STAGEFRIGHT CHAMELEON shows two lads follow a mysterious girl into the "Mole King's" lair, and gets weirder still - culminating in a couple of very brief hardcore clips from 70s porno LIPS.
BRING ME THE HEAD OF GERALDO RIVERA and SMALL GAUGE SHOTGUN finalise proceedings, with their interesting titles and John Waters-eque characters being their most interesting factors.
Finally, there's some decent liner notes from Chris Gore and Arnie Bernstien.
A strange, depressing, grubby little indie film with some good performances (Killen, take a bow!), WALLS IN THE CITY is not without many points of interest. And Barrel's package for this release is commendable.
Go on, dare to try something a little different ...!
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Barrel Entertainment|
|see main review|