Film by former
isle resident Byler
is on DVD
With this year's Hawaii International Film Festival starting next Thursday, it's appropriate that we revisit one of the more publicized entrants from last year, now out on DVD.
"Charlotte Sometimes," directed by former Hawaii resident Eric Byler, caught the attention of visiting critic Roger Ebert, who hailed it as a breakthrough independent for Asian American filmmakers.
It's a moody, sensitive "anti-romance" that's remarkable in its look, considering its low budget. But the digital video transfer to 35mm film is appropriate for this Los Angeles-based erotic mystery that boasts a fine ensemble cast in Michael Idemoto, Jacqueline Kim (an Independent Spirit award nominee for best supporting actress), Eugenia Yuan and Matt Westmore.
This film was tailor-made for the DVD format. Understanding and appreciating the pace of the unfolding storyline is rewarded with multiple viewings. Byler has said in the past in the press (as well as on the two commentary audio tracks) that he based it "on those subtle and restrained American films from the '70s, like 'Five Easy Pieces,' 'Carnal Knowledge' and the early films of Robert Altman," and you can really feel it in its unhurried, quasi-documentary tone.
Another bonus feature on the DVD is the public-access TV segment of Ebert himself introducing and later interviewing Byler, Kim, Idemoto and producer Marc Ambrose at the film's screening at his annual Overlooked Film Festival at the University of Illinois at Urbana in April.
The obligatory behind-the-scenes footage, bloopers and brief cast interviews is highlighted by a dining table scene between Kim and Idemoto that started off as a standard exercise where actors converse in numbers, but keep the emotional truth of their exchange going between them.
The one omission on the film's DVD version is due to licensing expense. When originally screened, Kim herself sang an effectively emotive version of The Cure song that inspired the film's title. Unfortunately, that was removed once the film went into wider distribution. It's too bad because Kim's singing added an effective coda over the film's credit roll.
"Charlotte Sometimes" is a Visionbox Pictures production and is now available in stores and online on Hart Sharp Video.
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