Saturday 7 September 2013

Assignment (UK 2013: Dir Paul Easter)

AssignmentPaul Easter is one of this country's more unusual low/no budget directors. He has a manifesto - simply to beat the studio bigwigs at their own game, and to get product out there which costs very little to make and achieves a return on investment sufficient to allow him to create more films. Probably the biggest cost he incurs in the whole process is the payment required to submit his work to the BBFC, as Easter wants all his films legally classified, so they can be put on the shelf in supermarkets awaiting that breed of weekend shopper who wants to take a chance on a film they've never heard of as potential Saturday night entertainment. By the time they've paid their money and loaded the film in the DVD player, well... Paul's onto his next film.

Easter's films seem to fall into two categories: randomly shot pieces showing the director and his mates messing around setting up car stunts (in films like the cynically titled U Mugs and Collateral Consequences); and more story based films like Thumb n It and the earlier Black Shuck, where Easter himself takes centre stage, often as a softly spoken stalker/killer, and always accompanied by his beloved dog Shuck.

I've always had a soft spot for this East Anglian chancer, dating back to my first exposure to his work via Black Shuck. Packaged as a creature feature of sorts, in reality it's an hour or so of Paul wandering the lowlands of Suffolk, accompanied by his dog, lazily stalking women and talking to camera in a voice which, depending on your age, could equally be described as sounding like Bernie Winters or Roland Rat. It really is a test of endurance, but at the same time I detected a spark of mad genius in the film that drove me to write a positive review for Lovefilm. This review sat rather awkwardly amidst a volley of vitriolic half/one star responses from punters who'd felt duped, ripped off, and generally seen coming. I thought they'd missed the point a bit.

hqdefault.jpgI wouldn't normally put finger to keyboard about all this, except that Easter's latest, Assignment, dropped onto the mat the other day. I watched it fearing diminishing returns for this type of film making. But for the next 45 minutes I forgot all that had gone before - for with Assignment, Easter has hit paydirt.

In Assignment Easter plays Richard, an entrepreneurial sort who intercepts drug drops, picks up the stashes and cash and makes off with the booty feeling quite pleased with himself, while the dealer community turns on itself as they realise they have been consistently ripped off.

That's it for story. But Assignment is presented in a strange cut up way that is truly odd. Snippets of scenes flicker by, whole scenes are repeated from different angles, the soundtrack cuts in and out, and the story is gradually told through a succession of sequences that leave you quite disorientated, reminiscent of a bargain bin Nicolas Roeg, or perhaps more appropriately 60s indie/nudie director Doris Wishman. At one point Richard seems to turn into a Terminator figure, complete with POV computer screens for eyes shots. I don't know why. The same girl fight is shown about ten times. I don't know why either. What is Easter trying to tell us? Is this by accident or design? Who knows. I don't, but I did think in its quirky, bonkers way that Assignment was rather good. It's certainly Paul Easter's best film to date. He makes no pretensions that his films are anything but one guy showing how easy and cheap it is to make movies - a hark back to the DIY indie music scene of the late 1970s - but I think Assignment transcends those ambitions - even if Easter didn't mean to.

1 comment: