Buttercup Bill at the Marfa Film Festival
The wild, psychosexual drama premieres at the prestigious arts hub
There's something near-impossible about attempting surrealist, David Lynch-like energy in a film—and then still being taken seriously. And yet, "Buttercup Bill" lands that mood, successfully. From the magnificent writing and beyond; it's an aggressive, at times alcohol-driven world of sex, discovery, loss and love. The film is beautifully shot—dripping in color and oscillating between the occasional dappled light of a gentle past and a present day excursion, in opposition to the neon gaslights of an all-too-adult future. Talented actors lend an emotional resonance, even when things are so odd and dissonant that they feel unfamiliar. There's more than a touch of humanity and altogether, it's a southern excursion worthy of the 94 minute run time.
Reference to a death at the start of the film, draws Pernilla, the lead character, back into the world of Patrick, someone she shares a fuzzy history with. At its core, "Buttercup Bill" is a romance, centering around obsession, with notes of a slow psychological thriller unfurling. As time moves forward, the past is revealed—amidst montage, scenes of allusion and symbolic reference, and even well-utilized musical performances. And the character the film is named after—potentially an imaginary friend—begins to become clear. As cloudy as that all sounds, the narrative tantalizes and presses forward, with everything in service to the greater story.
The film is one of the first to be produced by London's Blonde to Black Pictures, a production company helmed by Emma Comley and Sadie Frost. It was written and directed by Émilie Richard-Froozan and Rémy Bennett (the film also stars Bennett), together known as Van Veen Films. The NY-based Richard-Froozan and Bennett met at age 16, and soon after made their first film together. While directing music videos and short films, the two began to write "Buttercup Bill." It was shot on a micro-budget in and around New Orleans during the summer of 2013, after which it was discovered by Blonde to Black Pictures. According to Richard-Froozan, "Everyone in the crew was as equally important as the other. We all lived in the same house during production—it was a feast of friends."
"Émilie and I were sitting down together," Bennett tells CH. "We would share stories. The film is an amalgamation of experiences we had and it ended up organically coming together. Émilie came up with the name—it was based on an imaginary friend she had as a child." As for co-writing and co-directing Richard-Froozan adds, "Rémy and I are best friends, we trust each other deeply." That, coupled with the living situation during filming meant that at the end of every day, all the principal members of the film sat together and discussed how to make the best of the next day. Altogether, that unity delivered a concise edge to a film that could have easily been lost to its dreamlike nature.
Stills courtesy of Van Veen Films