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Crush (2011)
Tonight's Short Presentation

CRUSH (2011)

Starring: Callie Mauldin, Scott Ross, John Currie, Scott Pierce

Written and Directed By: Rebecca Pugh and Jen West

See It Here: http://vimeo.com/64769021


The Story

Once upon a time there was a chair, and it was there for everything in its owner’s life.  Bad movie night, birthday night, hot romance night, drinking champagne out of an ice cream tub night; all of it.  Then, disaster: the chair is broken, and even duct tape doesn’t seem up to the task of rescuing it.  And so, a new chair is brought in to replace it.  Then another.  And another.  Why isn’t this working?  It’s just a chair, right?  Right?


The Rundown

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEDDAR CHEESE SPREAD.

Yummy, tasty, feel good cheese.  Sure, the crackers you spread it on leave crumbs all over the furniture, but that’s just feeding the chair, right?


Pairs Well With...

INEXPENSIVE CHAMPAGNE.

For those special nights.  Easily enjoyed straight from the bottle… or from the tub of ice cream you poured it into, whichever.


Oftentimes, the best stories are the ones that tell those in the audience a simple truth they already knew but weren’t necessarily conscious of at the time.

By my count, Rebecca Pugh and Jen West’s Crush lets viewers choose between at least three of them.

The structure of the film is simplicity itself.  A chair takes center stage, filling the frame so that if a person is sitting in it, that person’s head will be cut off from the picture.  The camera never moves.  Most of the edits are straight cuts, jumping from one moment in time to the next, with only some light, piano-driven jazz for sound.  (Only in the penultimate scene does the audience see the unobscured face of the actor playing the chair’s owner or hear any sort of natural sound.)  That’s it; let ‘er roll.  So yeah: simple.

But it’s a deceptive kind of simple, because in reality, making this kind of simplicity look this good is pretty damn hard.

Directors Rebecca Pugh and Jen West and DP Chris Hillenke may never let the camera move, but the world in front of it is in constant motion.  What we see of the room surrounding the chair is spare, but it’s always exactly enough to set up a complete moment in the life of its owner; a few seconds that the audience has the tools to build out into much more thanks to the power of context and shared experience.  Months and probably years are lived in minutes, and those minutes have power.  The snippet lasts only a couple of seconds, but I smiled at years of late night movie memories during the “popcorn jump” (despite the fact that I myself never eat popcorn at home), because the film provides such perfect context.  The facepalm over the laptop; we each supply our own “why,” but the brilliance is that we all have one.  The lone birthday cupcake with the wine bottle and near-empty glass on the floor is moving, even sad; the life lived in this chair means something to you as a member of the audience by now.  Topping it all off: the champagne and ice cream… if that particular scene is not on the talent reels of everyone involved with making it, it should be, because that scene is magic itself.

And then comes the parade of new chairs auditioning for the role of “replacement,” at which point the audience gets to decide what it all means.

In theory, Crush is a silent film.  There is no dialogue to lead the viewer; its only audible voice is that of Ted Speaker’s whimsical score, which does a lovely trick of replacing piano wire with heart strings.  But despite being an inanimate object sitting in front of a camera that doesn’t move either, the chair somehow says its piece through the will of its directors.  (You know you’ve got a magic wand somewhere when you can get life out of furniture.)  Volumes are also spoken through the mostly faceless pantomime of the movie’s one featured human, Callie Mauldin, who does an outstanding job conveying situations and emotions from the neck down and occasionally with her hair.  And what her body doesn’t say, her clothes do, with a little help from the “incidental” bits of set dressing placed around the chair.  (Way to go, Lily Li and Angela Turner, respectively.)  So, silent?  That’s in the eye of the beholder.

But for all of the volumes that Crush speaks without saying a word, it, like a painting in a gallery, still allows the audience the right of ultimate interpretation.

Is it about not recognizing the good, the right, and the comfortable in our lives until it’s gone?  Perhaps.

Is it a metaphor for finding the perfect relationship?  Considering exactly which moments in the life of our leading lady and her chair we get to see, the case can definitely be made.  (If one wants to cheat – hmm; was that scene just before the champagne a metaphor for cheating? – one could surmise that the filmmakers themselves probably wrote the synopsis that appears on the movie’s IMDB page and therefore guess this to be the “official” position, but what fun is that?)

Or is the chair really “just” a chair?  I’ll admit that this is the interpretation that I have the most fun with.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but that’s the beauty of it.  What it all means, in the end, is up to you.

With that said, I do think it’s worth your while to take the seven minutes necessary to click the link up top, watch the movie, and decide for yourself.  After that, regardless of your decision as to what it ultimately means, I guarantee that it’ll stick with you for more than just seven minutes.  And that you’ll have a little smile on your face when it’s done.  And maybe even start humming a little tune that sounds a lot like the piano you just heard.

And maybe, just maybe, think a bit more about where you’re sitting when you do all of those things that make up the story of your life.

Bottom line, Crush is a beautifully made film, and it feels good to watch.  So go watch it already.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2013

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