Including an interview with Matthew Bissonette

Dir. Matthew Bissonette. Canada. 2009

Talking Pictures alias







About Us


As independent a film as they come, Canadian filmmaker Matthew Bissonette makes a picture postcard of Los Angeles showing sights you have never seen as two brothers become descendants of Philip Marlowe, as they trek across numerous counties and districts in search of a girl.  In the end, the girl becomes a macguffin that Philip Marlowe would ordinarily encounter, a necessary end of the plot but the journey involving the the two distinctly different brothers is the real story.

Michael (Adam Scott) and Tobay (Joel Bissonette, brother to the director) are different in that Michael is introvert and cultured, whilst Tobay is extrovert and direct, and a linguist as once scene with a Mexican shows.  Tobay to paraphrase a saying he uses, shakes hands with the world, Michael is more likely to shake his head at it.

The film is independent in its freedom of characters movements from town to town, the utilisation of an old automobile as the vehicle of choice (indicating nostalgia for past glories, but also the characters lack of funds to get a good enough car) with an 8 track cassette player instead of CD player and the music playing is left field and itself indie coming from artists as diverse and unknown as Leonard Cohen, D.O.A., Evan Dando and Silverjews.  The title of the film comes from a Wilco song, that the director listened to once, liked and wrote a screenplay around to incorporate the song.

We first meet Michael, a writer with one novel published and a virtual cynic at the world that surrounds him.  He wishes he could be the centre of attention, much like his brother Tobay is.  Tobay is a model and actor who has had a cocaine addiction and has now found God or Scientology, a loose parody on Tom Cruise.  Michael picks up Tobay and they start out for breakfast and the film begins to incorporate vignettes and scenes involving brief encounters with strangers on this journey.  From an old prostitute transexual friend of Tobay who decides to masturbate with Michael watching, this leads to a brilliant pay off line from Michael when it comes down to payment.  The film is not scared to have such characters in its domain and you get the sense that they are being themeselves and not reacting any differently because they are interacting with our two main protagonists; you believe they would act like this with whomever it would be.

Interestingly, the director does choose to balance it evenly between these unusual encounters with eccentric characters - a vigilant neighbourhood watch officer, an eccentric old madam in the desert, the Mexicans - and well written dialogue scenes between the two brothers when they are alone.  Oddly, Tobay keeps calling Michael a coward, for his unwillingness to pursue life's pleasures.  This word is said several times at the start, it riles Michael and then it is dropped, and by the film's conclusion and the introduction of the girl macguffin you understand the weight the word carries for Michael.  One of the best shot scenes, that give it this ethereal quality is when they are talking about Michael's writing and particularly his first novel; about two brothers - one an introvert, one an extrovert.  Clearly, fact is meshing with fiction, and then Tobay asks him about his second novel, Michael admits it is the same sort of story.

Adam Scott, previously seen in Step Brothers and The Aviator, is a good comedy actor but here his ability to be funny and to act provides a good rock for the film.  The film is about two brothers but it starts and ends with him, so it is as much about his journey as his brother's who is the passenger in question.  Scott reaches high level of pathos by journey's end when the realisation comes to light, and the film ends with an Evan Dando song playing over Michael driving the lonely streets.  The ending to some may be considered cold considering there has been so much warmth and laughter beforehand  in the films duration, but I feel that is indicative of much independent cinema in America nowadays, too often the need for happy endings have to be dismissed, in this day and age.  You need only look at nightly news updates, there are more unhappy endings and bad news than the good news.

The film is a treat to those who like their independent cinema supplied with quality dialogue ('I asked you once if your beer glass is half full or half empty. You said I don't like beer'.), wonderful soundtrack and excellent cinematography, then this film fits the bill.  If you liked Easier With Practice (which was also distributed by Axiom Films) you will like this film.

The film is on limited release from Friday 1st April 2011.

Interview with Matthew Bissonette.

Jamie Garwood:

Hi Matt, loved the film, the combination of lo-fi with highbrow dialogue was executed brilliantly.

Matthew Bissonette:

Thanks, glad you liked it, and thanks for the interest.


 What was the gestation of the film? And why has it taken so long to reach our shores?


I wrote the script a long time ago, in the fall of 2004, but then made another movie, and became a father, so it took a while to get passenger side done. As for reaching the white cliffs of Dover, that has to do with the bottom falling out of the film industry around the same time we were making passenger side; happily, things seem to be on the upswing, and the rivers of easy money are once again flowing!


Is this your most complete film?


It’s hard to say, they all seem complete to me, and I suppose that’s a judgment best left to the person watching the films. That said I have found each film successively easier to make, which, so far, has been a nice surprise.


Was it easy working with your brother, and is the brotherly relationship in the film close to your own?


Working with Joel is pretty simple, as he is a committed actor, and comes to work very well prepared (the same goes for Adam). Regarding the similarity to our actual relationship, we are both sarcastic jerks with poor memories, but the rest of the stuff is made-up.


How much care was taken with selecting the soundtrack?


It was always my intention that the music be like air, in that it is totally familiar and ubiquitous; it’s almost more than a character, it’s the atmosphere that the characters live in; and so, a lot of care was taken. I had one or two songs in mind for specific sequences, but mostly I just knew I wanted to use a certain tune, or band, and that bit eventually found the right place to live in the film; Matt Hannam my editor, and Corey Marr, the producer, were also pretty involved in the music selection; as well, Mac McCaughan, from Superchunk, Portastic, Merge Records, etc, who scored my first two films, was on as the music supervisor for this one, and he threw a bunch of numbers into the mix, so it was all a bit of a Potpourri; that said, the big idea was to find the exact songs that would have been on the cassette that was lying on the floor in the car.


The ending (without ruining it) is quite downbeat, was that deliberate or just indicative of the journey created?


I guess I don’t find it that downbeat, bitter sweet is more the word I would use, and it was deliberate in the sense that when I was writing it seemed like exactly the spot where the characters should arrive.


What is next?



Jamie Garwood

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