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Bass Ackwards -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- The kind of introspective road film plenty of aspiring auteurs would probably like to make but few can pull off, "Bass Ackwards" follows a floundering hero without floundering itself, and should find a few soulmates on the fest circuit (it hits VOD and DVD on Feb. 1) while earning filmmaker/star Linas Phillips a certain kind of cred for follow-up projects.

In the spirit of early Wim Wenders and the pre-"Slacker" Richard Linklater film "It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books," the picture offers the barest plot necessary to get its protagonist (Phillips, evidently playing himself) on the road: After being gently kicked out of his friends' Seattle apartment and getting rebuffed without explanation by a would-be girlfriend, gentle-faced Linus finds himself the owner of a modified VW bus, heading toward his parents' Boston home to regroup.

Even by road-film standards, the movie downplays plot, and viewers who don't settle into its wavelength pretty quickly will find it a bore. But the chance meetings Linas has along his route provide both odd comic relief (Jim Fletcher, as an apparently homeless man who invites himself to join Linas for days of travel) and the occasional affecting moment of grace: In a memorable sequence, Paul Lazar plays a gas station attendant nursing some deep emotional wounds.

Working on the fly but producing good-looking footage, Phillips and his small team capture a string of cheap motels and barstool encounters that lend themselves to the character's on-the-fence emotional state. An especially good instrumental score by Tara Jane O'Neil and Lori Goldston strikes the right mood, helping the audience stay alert to the road's small pleasures while we root for our tour guide to find something before his van finally goes belly-up.

Sundance Film Festival (No theatrical distributor; VOD and DVD by New Video and Zipline Entertainment, release Feb. 1)
Production company: Furnace Films
Cast: Linas Phillips, Davie-Blue, Jim Fletcher, Paul Lazar
Director: Linas Phillips
Screenwriter: Linas Phillips (co-screenwriters: Davie-Blue, Jim Fletcher, Sean Porter, Paul Lazar)
Executive producer: Mark Duplass
Producer: Thomas Woodrow
Director of photography: Sean Porter
Music: Tara Jane O'Neil, Lori Goldston
Editor: Linas Phillips, Brett Jutkiewicz
Sales Agents: Thomas Woodrow of Furnace Films and Marian Koltai-Levine of Zipline Entertainment
No MPAA rating, 101 minutes