Unique, Breezing Portrayal of a Creature, Circling over the Remains Buzzard, Joel Potrykus, 2014

in 25th Ljubljana International Film Festival

by Maja Krajnc

American independent director Joel Potrykus based his second feature – which is at the same time the third part of his animal trilogy, consisting of the 2010 short Coyote and his 2012 feature Ape – on the context he knows very well: he experienced a year as a temp in a mortgage company, where he was creatively exploring different ways of how to cope with boredom. In Buzzard (2014), a film with a pretty eloquent title, we follow Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge), who works as a temp in a mortgage company, located in Grand Rapids in Michigan.

Marty, whose spiritual world extends to Eddy Krugger and some comic book heroes, that often go along with hard-metal tunes, spends his days occupying himself with various money schemes: for example, exchanging office supplies for cash, calling in coupons on the back of pizza boxes etc. He reveals the scheme of stealing money from his own company to his friend and co-worker Derek (Joel Potrykus), with whom he spends hours in the so called “party zone”, located in Derek’s dad’s basement, and consisting of a TV, a couch, and a colourful moving lamp, where they play video games, games that involve eating chips off a treadmill (that is emphasized in a long-take close-up). Their “bro out” time includes even slashing each other with violent objects.

On one hand, the film has a well thought-out structure, but on the other, it combines with incredible ease various genres. Treading tableaux depictions of fragments of Marty’s life, the film almost seamlessly shifts from one genre to another, which makes it dynamic and energetic.

The main character’s actions, rooted in boredom and bitterness, are sometimes humorous, but may in the very next moment provoke an “unheimlich” feeling in the spectator. At times Marty’s annoying behaviour seems to exceed all boundaries, but in the end, one could easily agree that Potrykus has succeeded in depicting a sincere and somehow relatable character. 

With his thorough exploration of the everyday life of a society’s down-and-out, Potrykus reveals a wider picture, reflecting the life of young people from Michigan and Detroit, the cities that “have been ravaged by bad corporate decisions”, as Potrykus points out in the interview with American Film Institute.

In one scene, Marty checks himself into a hotel room, where he, wearing a soft bathrobe, enjoys eating a plate of spaghetti while watching cable TV. Marty seems the happiest creature alive when the spaghetti sauce pours all over his face and body (as shot in real time). And yet, in another scene, which takes place on the following night, he is eating cold spaghetti from a can in a crappy motel. Thus in Buzzard, through Marty’s world which seems a bit bizarre at first glance, the author manages to truthfully depict the world of low-wage workers, who does not even enjoy the “privilege” of having health insurance, and are trying to survive from one pay check to another.

American Film Institute:

Edited by Christina Stojanova