Local director Travis Mills returns to the big screen with his second feature in less than a year. Following the success of his first feature “The BIG Something,” which premiered in October of 2011, “The Detectives Lover” Screens this month at Filmbar with showings on July 5 and July 12 at 8pm. Shot entirely in black and white, Mills presents his latest film in the tradition of his main influence and favorite filmmaking style; Film Noir. Boasting a completely original jazz soundtrack, ‘Lover’ follows the story of an investigative reporter looking for a detective to interview that will inspire him to write the pulpiest of fiction while at the same time, helping him exorcise his inner demons.
Third-rate reporter Scott Miller (played by director Mills himself) is profoundly pooped pounding out pulp for a podunk Phoenix paper. He goes off on his own in search of a seasoned detective who will provide the cream filling for the type-written Twinkie he is just itching to write. He meets dirty dastardly detective Dave Goodman (Dean Veglia) who sends him on the trail of several lowdown dicks, the most intriguing of all being one John D. (Rob Edwards). After a tense encounter in a Thai food restaurant, the jughead journalist stays hot on the trail of the venal villain, following big D to a Cougar bar to witness an encounter with the detective’s mistress. The aspiring Spillane then follows the pair to her place, peering through the window and watching them play a friendly game of single-stick Jenga. Scott is instantly hooked on the slutty soubrette and starts seriously stalking the slinky seductress. The two nefarious nincompoops begin a torrid affair that forces Scott to encounter corrupt cops, flaky filmmakers and, at one point, even leaves him standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.
Once again, Mills has assembled an excellent cast performing pro-bono; pouring their heart and soul into their performance for that bag of chips and water bottle at the end of every production day. Some standout performances by indie newcomers Jean Paul Turgeon as the tough but unfair newspaper editor Richard Huntington, and a hilarious performance by Mark Shannon as the slimeball, wannabe filmmaker ‘Rose.’ Rob Edwards is a joy to watch on screen, but is hardly seen in this film, while Dean Veglia delivers an excellent performance as the snide and sneaky detective who spins the naïve Scott into his sinister web. Mills has always demonstrated a knack for avoiding the tiled roof; stucco sided snoozy-ness of suburban Phoenix, delving instead into the miry, mysterious murkiness the old city offers. “The Detectives Lover” provides a great combination of sight and sound, and the overall look of the film is terrific, as cinematographer Dave Surber remains consistently cognizant that he is shooting the scenes for black and white, and not necessarily in black and white. This film, however, is owned, operated and dominated by the superb sound design/production audio of Mr. James Alire, Tommy Schaeffer and Justin Bird. The combined efforts of the talented sound crew not only make this film, but also illustrate the absolute necessity of professional sound quality even in a no budget indie film. While the story was compelling in its own right, the perfectly mixed sound made it engaging and entertaining. Severe lighting deficits and heavy run‘n gun guerrilla filmmaking are forgiven and often ignored when succinctly stitched together in such silken sound.
“The Detectives Lover” is more of an offering by the director to the Gods of Noir than a stand alone cinematic creation. While desperately trying to stay true to his favorite genre´ Mills inevitably tosses in the torrid, turgid T&A that he is often known for, unintentionally creating a low-rent and goofy parody of his favorite film style. Mill’s passion for Film Noir is burning to the point of absurdity, as the modern day Phillip Marlowe-esque, Ingrid Bergman-ish characters tool around town in their fuel efficient vehicles, be-bop along the light rail and go w a y out of their way in order to hide out in the prototypical, overly clichéd two bit fleabag motel. While still watchable and entertaining, ‘Lover’ lacks the clever charm and sophisticated simplicity of Mill’s first feature “The BIG Something,” focusing too hard on creating a brilliant, diabolical tale of manipulation and human emotion, while still trying to get down and dirty. “The Detectives Lover” is presented with all the trappings of Dijon deftly brushed upon baguette, but concludes as little more than mustard smeared on Wonder bread.
Final Take – Noir leans.