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First Look Review - MISSISSIPPY MISSIPPI TU-POLO

A young man considers himself a great writer, despite never having written a word.


Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Pablo D'Stair

Starring: Pablo D'Stair, Carlyle Edwards, Helen Bonaparte, Tony Burgess



"The navel gazing and self-absorption of the central character will not be for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for some erudite wit, and savage satire, then put that book down for the 80 or so minutes it takes to check out Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo."


Victor d'Entrement (Charlie Baker, a pseudonym of the film’s writer/director Pablo D’Stair) has big aspirations. A nascent writer, he spends his days fantasising of becoming the toast of the New York literary world. In private, he schizophrenically enacts interviews wherein he converses with himself, at once lauding and explaining his glittering career, whilst in public anyone unfortunate enough to be in the near vicinity is subjected to Victor’s rambling plot ideas and pie in the sky guarantees of his forthcoming posterity within the realm of American letters. There’s only one hurdle to Victor’s ambitions; he hasn’t written a word, his creativity is instead squandered on these puffed-up fancies. And while his long suffering ex, Layla (D’Stair alumni Helen Bonaparte), goes on to the sort of success that Victor can only dream of (none other than Sarah Polley is adapting one of her books), Victor is left to stew in his own literary bitterness.
Or, indeed, bitter literariness, as, with its East Coast setting and erudite register, Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo recalls the archness of vintage Woody Allen, whose canny voice is evident in the circumlocutory conversations that constitute Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo’s screenplay, and also in the middle-class bohemia of the film’s mise-en-scene; stacked bookshelves, scarfs and tastefully lit apartments. Like D’Stair’s previous film, A Public Ransom, dialogue and rumination are the life-ink of this movie; following an intriguing time lapse structure (the film covers perhaps a year or so), it becomes increasingly evident that Victor is all talk, no words- his fantasies becoming more and more hilariously unlikely as the film progresses. At one point he imagines that Harold Bloom writes an afterword for his novel, and self-flattering comparisons to Calvino, Albee et al, abide (could there be more diametrically opposed stylists?).
As an obsessive reader, I really enjoyed Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo’s plentiful literary allusions - even dear old Martin Amis gets a mention - and also the film’s musings about the disjointed relationship between art, audience and artist, which are very amusing. At one point Victor rants about the ‘tyranny’ of readers, as if it’s his audience’s fault for his lack of success (a paradigm it is all too easy to imagine a failed novelist resorting to), and, in the film’s slyest running joke, haughty convos about writing and writers are consistently undercut by reminders of how much money characters owe each other.
Although the film relies on dialogue rather than specifically visual pleasures, D’Stair endeavours to shoot these conversations in ways that at least attempt to be visually intriguing, employing Dutch cants and using the angles within the set to frame shots; a film like this will never be a ‘spectacle’, but there is a cinematic dynamic at play here that elevates Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo above the ‘filmed play’ pitfall that most talkie indies tumble into. Calling a film like this indulgent would be akin to levelling the accusation of too many car chases at Furious 7, as while action defines that movie, so does narcissism designate Victor - Layla self reflexively (and speciously?) remarks early on that ‘the first thing man ever filmed was his dick’.
The navel gazing of Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo and self-absorption of the central character will not be for everyone; after all the film is an exercise in knowing conversation and esoteric irony, rather causal narrative and conventional structure, but if you’re in the mood for some erudite wit, and savage satire, then put that book down for the 80 or so minutes it takes to check out Mississippy Missippi Tu-Polo (which you can find free -free!- on Vimeo here).




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