Rookie Telluride filmmakers Christopher and Geoffrey Hanson are taking their little film out into the big world.
Scrapple showed first at the Breckenridge and Slamdance film festivals. Since then it has gone to Atlanta, Toronto, New York, and now, to Boulder.
Scrapple is made of episodes and subplots, each of which adds a little view to the film’s big-picture look at a bygone era. Set in the early 1970s, Scrapple tries to capture the life of a little Colorado ski town before its Aspenization.
The film focuses on Ajax, Colorado’s young inhabitants. Al (Geoffrey Hanson) is a housepainter, dope supplier, and bush-league baseball fan. Tom (Buck Simmons) is Al’s friend, who is haunted by the friendly ghost of his ex-girlfriend. Beth is Tom’s current love interest, but she doesn’t know if Tom can ever grow up and make a good partner. Errol (Bunzy Bunworth) is an Australian who has ended up in Ajax as the town’s bartender and spiritual guide.
And then of course there’s Scrapple the pig. Errol won him in a contest, and Scrapple doesn’t know that he’s spending his last summer on Earth. His destiny is to be the town’s main course at the big feast at the end of the summer. Meanwhile, he’ll enjoy the view.
The story meanders through the summer mountain valley, variously following Al and Tom — Al as he tries to scrape up enough money to buy a house for him and his wheelchair-bound brother, and Tom as he tries to cope with the death of his girlfriend.
Scrapple does a good job at capturing a unique time and place. The cinematography and setting are quaint and inviting. The clothes, hair, and culture (drug references, astrology, etc.) identify the half-decade, without drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. In fact, one of the best things about Scrapple is that it carefully avoids the easy trap of making cheap jokes about the fashion and attitudes of its time.
The film was made on a shoestring budget with amateurs and friends of the director filling in most of the roles. Sometimes this is too apparent as stiff, uncomfortable actors are thrust in front of an oddly-placed camera. Once the movie gets started, it’s easy to get used to the style, but occasionally a performance will jump out and remind you this is a cheap movie.
Also, the plot seemed unfocused for much of the movie. Since the film is episodic, it wasn’t often distracting, but I sometimes wondered where the film was going. Nevertheless, by the end things began to come together. Loose threads were tied up neatly, ultimately leaving you with a sense of completion and satisfaction — and with a real sense of the fictional town of Ajax.
Scrapple may not be the best film in town, but its local take on the culture of the seventies is worth a look.