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DISCHORD(director/writer/editor: Mark Wilkinson; cinematographer: Ernst Kubitza; music: John McCarthy; cast: Thomas Jay Ryan (Jimmy), Annunziata Gianzero (Gypsy), Richard Bakalyan (Detective Dunbarton), Andrew Borba (Lucian), Rick Wessler (The Beachcomber), Michael DeLuise (Billy Dunbarton), Alex McArthur (Recording Studio Exective), Jeanette O’Connor (Mrs. Hirshenson); Runtime: 102; producer: Nancy Trombacco; Ivy Media Group; 2003)
“A beautiful to look at thriller/drama, but lacking a good story to go with its gorgeous Cape Cod winter setting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A beautiful to look at thriller/drama, but lacking a good story to go with its gorgeous Cape Cod winter setting. First-time Boston-based director/writer/editor Mark Wilkinson puts together a film shot in 22 days and costing a mere $250,000. It’s currently making the film festival circuit and I saw it at the Manchester Film Festival. There’s no release as of yet, as the film’s best chance seems to be to hook up with a cable channel such as IFC.

It’s a shame the story failed to catch fire, as there’s a story there someplace but the inexperienced director never fleshed it out. Instead the film dragged on with less than scintillating dialogue, lots of wasted shots of toenails being cut, two over acting villains, and contrived plot devices aimed to make the film seem different rather than to benefit the storyline. And, to make matters worse, the filmmaker never did much with the subject matter of music as an art form he so boldly made as the pivotal point of the story.

We first see the alternative rock gypsy musician (Annunziata Gianzero) and her pretentious New Age composer husband Lucien (Andrew Borba) being feted at a party by his agent to celebrate the commercial and critical success of his album Inspired, reaching number six on the Billboard chart, on which the talented Gypsy plays one solo violin number. The insecure hubby is jealous of his more gifted wife and is given to making arrogant statements and having infantile temper tantrums. He’s upset because he believes his wife’s talent is the main reason for his CD’s success.

Gypsy also has a temper tantrum at a recording session — but a less volatile one than her hubby’s — and on the spur of the moment cancels her sold-out world tour to join her hubby in seclusion on his childhood home on the Cape. After not seeing his troubled half-brother Jimmy (Thomas Jay Ryan) for ten years, he receives a surprise call that he wants to see him this weekend. When Jimmy gets back to his car after making the call, he suddenly gets upset with the girl he was bringing along as a guest and just beats her to death while she’s calmly seated in the car (that scene looked fake). The scruffy Jimmy apparently doesn’t like girls lying to him, and so poor Janet’s corpse gets dumped out to sea along with her luggage.

The two rival half-brothers are rekindling unpleasant memories at their childhood glass house Cape Cod home and are chatting about how their mother killed herself after fessing up that Jimmy had a different father. Gypsy gets between them and acts as the peacemaker. She endears herself to the odd charms of their misanthropic guest. Perhaps she feels he’s an outsider, also. In any case she has made up her mind to never play music again, and her prissy, self-possessed hubby needles her and throws up his hands begging for quiet in the house so he can get back to work. The two scolded recipients of Lucien’s emotional storm seek shelter on the beach, where they play like children with abandon and seem to be growing fond of one another. Though he wants to get romantic, while she wants only a platonic relationship.

The newspaper headline reads that an unknown woman was found dead washed up on Yarsboro beach, and retired Boston homicide detective, John Dunbarton (Richard Bakalyan), pulls a Columbo routine and acts crotchety-but-lovable, as he tells his wife at the breakfast table after reading about the murdered girl that he’s going to help on the sly his Cape Cod policeman son Billy with the investigation before another girl is killed (he must have read the script to know that). He’s an amusing character, but his part in this film is hard to explain or find credible. Yet he’s the only character that seems real.

The Beachcomber (Rick Wessler) is a mysterious and eccentric character; he’s an elderly man who lives on a shack in the dunes for ages and is the one that found Janet’s body. This character derives pleasure from sneaking up on Gypsy and telling her things she doesn’t understand and then vanishing. After a local waitress is killed and the cops have arrested the wrong psychopath for the other murder, Dunbarton sniffs it out that Jimmy is the serial killer. Since there’s no more mystery, the only thing left to get excited about is whether or not Dunbarton will get back from his investigation of Janet’s Boston apartment in time to stop Jimmy from killing Gypsy. Ho-hum.

The most out of place character was the villainous Lucien, the killer of the artist in Gypsy and the one offering her only cold love. Why she stays with him is more of a mystery than anything else about the story.

It was bearable mainly because the steely colors of the ocean, the beach, and the vast emptiness of the foreboding sky gave the film a life of its own and the isolation of the area agreed with the main character’s alienation. The only thing missing was a sense that this story had anything to say about anything. It was cluttered with characters who weren’t interesting and when examined closely seemed as empty as the off-season Cape Cod beach.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”