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Review–Tilting At Windmills

Tilting At Windmills (2011)

Length: 10 min

Genre: Comedy

Director: Timothy Watkins

Writers: Charles Forsgren,Timothy Watkins

Stars: Mark Jacob CarrShawn TelfordErnie JosephTessa Marie Archer

 

A homeless Don Quixote embarks on a mentally  ill-advised pursuit of honor and justice.

This Don is played by a homeless Wayne Coyne, the guy from the Flaming Lips. Not really. It’s Mark Jacob Carr. But Mark reminds me of Wayne, and it’s a perfect look for our modern Quixote. Don is almost a kind of Don Juan DiMarco character: adrift in a romantic fantasy world of his own making, but without the sex (darn). Don speaks with a stilted, quasi Shakespearean affect, studies  romance novels assiduously, and imagines that he is a knight errant, like the Fabio of old.

Don attempts to thwart some scalawags who try to make off with a homeless street musician’s tips. For his efforts–BAM!–Don gets a rock in his face. Call me a sucker for slapstick, but this was easily my favorite part of the movie. Don cleans himself up with the help of a passerby, and immediately impresses the homeless man into service as his faithful squire, Sancho.

The only thing that really detracts from Don as a character is the afffected speaking style. Don is like a man reciting Shakespeare, who has no idea what the words mean. But I feel like if Don were truly bat shit, then his ramblings would make complete sense to him and would be second nature, even if they don’t make sense to us–rather than the other way around. (Actually, that sentence itself is hard to understand.) But I’m totally rooting for Don. Maybe it’s because he genuinely wants to save people, whatever the cost to himself–albeit in a completely mental way. Let that be a lesson to indie film makers everywhere:

Make an audience care about your character, and they will let a whole lot of shit slide.

Speaking of which, Shawn Telford (Sancho) doesn’t look homeless. At all. Where would a homeless guy get a Norelco to give himself a perfect Don Johnson stubble? Even though that bugs the hell out of me, I let it go because Shawn is adorable and likeable as the mute squire.

Don and Sancho find a giant to slay in Fred, a douchenozzle garage owner who is being mean to his whore, uh, girlfriend, uh, employee? I give up. Anyway, Ernie Joseph, who plays Fred, looks like the pimp maître d’ of a mobster- themed restaurant, albeit with a Johnny Rockets flair. I bet Ernie took one look in the mirror after he left wardrobe/makeup and thought, “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this shit!?”  The answer is, the best you can, Ernie, the best you can. I mean really: who irons their coveralls?

Alyssa, the damsel in distress (played by Tessa Marie Archer), is revealed to Don in a beautiful cinematic moment. Alyssa is lovely in a purple velvet dress that one would wear to a winter wedding, her hair and makeup perfect. This is Don’s vision of her. No wonder he feels compelled to liberate her from the evil clutches of the pimp-mob-giant-mechanic.

The “castle” of the giant looks like a residential garage that has been converted to living space and done up in kitsch motoring memorabilia to reflect the history of the structure. There’s no way in hell this is a working garage. When you combine Fred’s spotless, pressed overalls, Alyssa’s wedding party getup, and the faux, living-space feel of the gentrified, garage-mobster-restaurant-brothel—well, I have no idea what I’m looking at. What the hell are these cats up to?

It’s as if Alyssa and Fred exist only so that Don may explore his fantasy world, and have been on ice, waiting for him to appear, like an instance in a video game. This fantasy approach can work, if you go way over the top in a Terry Gilliam sort of way, but it was unclear here if Don was experiencing a fantasy, or interrupting actual weird people, or both.

If Alyssa and Fred are real people, then they disturb the hell out of me. I want to know what is going on after hours in the “castle.” That’s the real story behind Tilting at Windmills. The garage-mobster-restaurant-brothel is going on in the front. What in god’s green goodness is going on in the back!?

Tilting gets tied up in a tidy bow at the end, but I’m not sure if Don got what he wanted. I like Don.  I want him to be happy. Well hey, at least Alyssa and Fred have their garage-castle-brothel-mob-restaurant business to get back to.

Timothy Watkins created Tilting at Windmills for the Seattle International Film Festival’s “Fly Filmmaking Challenge,” and had some serious restrictions to deal with. Tim had 5 days to write the script, 3 days to shoot it, and 5 days to complete post-production, including all editing and scoring. He was limited to a 12-person crew, and was allowed a maximum of 40 minutes of raw 35mm stock. When you consider the limitations Timothy imposed upon himself, the result is not shabby at all.

But, 35 mm stock? What kind of pretentious douchebag shoots in actual film these days? Timothy Watkins, that’s who! Why would anyone use actual film? It’s an expensive pain in the ass. Tim has brass fucking balls, man. Respect! But I don’t care about 35 mm, I just want to be entertained. I think most audience members couldn’t give a shit about how the images of the film they are watching were recorded.

I think they should have taken the extra money it cost to use real film and paid to get a cameo by Fabio himself. What’s his day rate? Like six hundred bucks? Now that would have been awesome!

Cheers to everyone who worked on Tilting. The film has some great visual concepts that were realized very well, but in the end what I liked the most about Tilting was Don. This douchebag finally cared about a character! That’s quite an accomplishment.

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