LBF: Film Review

Quick-moving Aussie import convincingly evokes youthful confusion about love and lust with flashes of style and near-wisdom to spare.

First-time director Alex Munt's chaotic exploration of an aspiring writer's rock & roll lifestyle lacks a solid philosophical throughline to hold it together.

AUSTIN — Pickled in booze, rock & roll and twentysomething self-indulgence, the Aussie import LBF (it stands for "Living Between Fucks") offers a viscerally involving trip through one energetically aimless male psyche but makes less sense of the ride than it seems to intend.

Despite occasional bursts of sensory beauty and tiny sparks of insight, the movie's 65-minute running time and unconventional narrative style effectively hobble its theatrical prospects. Many on the fest circuit will be impressed, though, likely offering first-time writer/director Alex Munt the momentum to make a proper feature.

Adapting a novel by Cry Bloxsome, Munt extracts a movie-long narration from his protagonist, an aspiring writer called Goodchild (Toby Schmitz) who returns home after living in Paris to attend the funeral of his ex-girlfriend, known only as the Dead Girl.

Being lost in Goodchild's head is often disorienting, and not only because he's frequently drunk. We watch as he overindulges at parties and zones out at rock shows, scribbling in notebooks and alternating between a fruitless affair with a gauntly beautiful businesswoman and memories of more heartfelt Parisian days with his ex. (It's hard to believe this frightened-looking, unkempt young man's luck with women, but over time Schmitz does convey a kind of self-destructive charisma.)

What action there is revolves around a poorly explained writing project Goodchild undertakes for the businesswoman: "The Love Enterprise" is apparently meant to be some kind of dissertation on the exploitation of romance for product marketing, but it seems invented mainly to let the writer engage in constant, often shallow dorm-room-style philosophizing about the overlap of sex with True Love and all of its amorphous amorous cousins.

The film makes up for its muddled philosophy with a quick, stumble-forward momentum that matches the recklessness of its hero. Scenes are tightly edited and rarely linger, with Munt slowing down only for Goodchild's reveries about the Dead Girl, who might as well be called the One That Got Away. Strangely, even this thread gets short shrift from the screenplay, which never bothers to tell us how she died.

Munt mixes consumer-grade video sources, sometimes to crisp, stylish effect but occasionally with little concern for aesthetic continuity. Helping hold things together is a fresh array of talented young Australian rock bands, who make the milieu credible even if their intermittent appearances — playing at parties or on nightclub stages — draw attention to the jerky movement of a movie made in fits and starts over the course of two years.

Venue: South by Southwset Film Festival, Spotlight Premieres section
Production Company: Muntmedia
Cast: Toby Schmitz, Bianca Chiminello, Gracie Otto, Septimus Caton, April Rose Pengilly, Iren Skaarnes
Director-screenwriter: Alex Munt
Based on a novel by: Cry Bloxsome
Producers: Alex Munt, Andrew Soo, Marcus Eckermann
Director of photography: Gareth Tillson
Music: Kyls Burtland, Martin Polkinghorne
Costume designer: Alex Smyth-Kirk
Editor: Andrew Soo
No rating, 65 minutes