Let’s begin with R. Kurt Osenlund‘s introduction to his interview at Slant: “Even the most passive indie buff is surely familiar with Alex Karpovsky, who, in the last half-decade, has appeared in everything from Beeswax and Gayby to Sleepwalk with Me and Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. A sort of living, breathing, low-budget seal of approval, the wry Brooklynite has kept busy bringing dramedic street cred to numerous projects, including Tiny Furniture and HBO’s Girls, the brainchildren of Karpovsky’s friend and collaborator Lena Dunham, whose hip ubiquity the actor and filmmaker is starting to mirror himself.”
I’d also mention that Karpovsky was terrific in Bryan Poyser’s Lovers of Hate (2010). At any rate, starting today: “His fourth and fifth films, the stylistically contrasting Rubberneck and Red Flag, are being released by Tribeca Film and screen at Film Society of Lincoln Center,” notes Miriam Bale, introducing her interview for Filmmaker (and you may remember that Henry Stewart interviewed Karpovsky for the L last week, when we also mentioned Karpovsky’s appearances in two other films making the rounds, Supporting Characters and Almost in Love). “In Rubberneck, Karpovsky plays a scientist obsessed with a former fling, and in the road trip comedy Red Flag he plays a filmmaker named Alex Karpovsky who is touring his film Woodpecker (filmed on the actual tour of Karpovsky’s film of that name) in the South after being dumped by his girlfriend.”
“Though often funny,” writes Time Out New York‘s Keith Uhlich of Red Flag, “there’s a reverse narcissism in the way Karpovsky wallows in his ‘character’s’ off-putting flaws, something the especially fraudulent last scene only exacerbates. A too-pat ending also spoils Rubberneck (shorter: Mommy made me do it!), though it doesn’t ruin the steely pleasures of the filmmaking…. In both movies you can see genuine talent poking through the festival-circuit tedium; hopefully Karpovsky’s better instincts will win out next time.” And in the New York Times, Rachel Saltz finds that “the movies have plenty in common, from their indifferent visual aesthetics to their low-wattage absorption in the problems of failed romance.”
“The most surprising aspect of Red Flag,” finds Nick McCarthy at Slant, “is how it abandons its obvious meta elements and unfolds as a straightforward road-trip flick, opting for an exhibition of self-loathing rather than self-reflexivity. The film is reminiscent of the work of monolithic Jewish artists (namely, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, and Larry David) without approaching their heights of thorny social awareness; the result is a teasing, gag-filled experiment—more a trifling specimen of self-analysis through exaggeration rather than a bold undertaking of artistic vision. Kaprovsky exhibited his ability to play with form in the more accomplished, Ross McElwee-like The Hole Story, but with Red Flag he seems determined to play down his conceit.” But for Michael Nordine, writing in the Voice, Red Flag is “executed with enough charm and humor to work anyway.”
Back in Slant, Jesse Cataldo finds Rubberneck to be “a tedious, inept thriller which pokes dolefully at the outlines of obsession. Grant the young director a few honorary points for branching out into new territory, but there’s little else to defend this dull, lumbering movie.” But in the Voice, Ernest Hardy argues that “Karpovsky is unsettlingly good as Paul [the scientist], and Newman’s Danielle [the fling he’s obsessed with] is sexy and layered. Her appeal—and the fact that she’s out of Paul’s league—is obvious, but on a recognizably human scale. And that’s what gives the film its resonance, that Paul is revealed to be monstrous, but not exaggeratedly so.”
“Karpovsky is aware of your possible objections to his existence, let alone his work,” writes Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir. “He shares them, to some degree! What makes me so encouraged about his potential is that he uses his angst-ridden, self-conscious persona and ambivalent nerdy-handsome appearance judiciously. He never tries to make himself seem like the coolest guy in the room, like certain prominent actor-directors (excuse me, I need to cough: Affleck!), nor does he wallow in endless, nebbishy self-pity. If I may put it this way, he’s trying to learn from the crimes of Woody Allen and Philip Roth, while still exploring similar terrain.”
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