Unpresidented, Jason Giampietro,15m, USA, World Premiere
A New Yorker comes to regret betting on the 2016 election.
Dustin Guy Defa’s Person to Person is a pure cinematic joy punctuated with a cast of quirky Big Apple characters. The overly eager newspaper reporter Phil (Michael Cera) and his new co-worker Claire (Abbi Jacobson) are trying to pry crucial evidence about a suspicious death from a watch repairman (Philip Baker Hall). Meanwhile, Benny (Bene Coopersmith), an obsessive record collector, is trying to avoid getting burned on a rare record deal. At the same time, he is helping his lovesick friend rebound from some bad decisions he made during a recent break-up. The film rolls out one fascinating character after another, offering up an engrossing, low-key, slice-of-life comedy.
While wholly its own cinematic endeavor, Person to Person should make fans of ’70s Altman and Ashby feel a certain warmth in their cinephile souls. That the film is ripe with quirk and originality should come as no surprise to festival-goers familiar with the singular Defa’s work. His abrasive and compelling debut feature Bad Fever played in MdFF 2011. His short film Person to Person, upon which this feature is based, played in MdFF 2014, as have a number of his other short films. Here he ups the ante, directing an outstanding ensemble cast through scenes that require great nuance and a delicate touch to land their comedic punches. Equally crucial to the film’s success is its employment of the incredible eye of cinematographer Ashley Connor, whose 16mm camerawork is alone worth the price of admission. (Scott Braid)