Combustible Celluloid
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With: Aphrodite Nikolovski, April Canning, David G.B. Brown, Valentina Arnold, Robert Maples, Steven Soro, Jacob Hodgson, Gregg McNeal
Written by: Robert Joseph Butler, Stan Bridges
Directed by: Robert Joseph Butler
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 21
Date: 03/18/2013

The Spirit of Isabel (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Spirit' Moves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I have been following Robert Butler's short films for years now, and his new one, The Spirit of Isabel, marks a new level of technical accomplishment in terms of locations, actors, setups, etc. Butler is very much influenced by Bergman and Lynch, and he has likewise adopted a kind of dreamy mood for his films; here he manages to transfer that to a more straightforward narrative.

The striking Aphrodite Nikolovski stars as Isabel. Over the course of the film we learn her sad story; remarkably, it's told mostly visually with no exposition. She's a mother whose child is not around, though we assume she hopes to have the child back someday. Isabel can't find a job in this dreadful post-Bush economy, and has resorted to prostitution. Butler follows her as she tries to pick up a man in a bar, and we get our first clue as to her intent when a bouncer spots her and tosses her out.

Butler keeps a careful, unhurried pace throughout, which suggests a real control for such a young filmmaker. (The good, moody music helps.) The performances were almost all excellent, especially Nikolovski's. Very powerful stuff.

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