USA, 1996 (MIFF 1997, International)

Director: Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi has made an indelible mark on the world of independent film as an actor, bringing to life such unforgettable characters as 'Mr Pink' in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and the stressed out, sleep-deprived director in Tom DiCillo's Living in Oblivion.

Life for Buscemi might have turned out like that portrayed in Trees Lounge, had he not uproot­ed himself from a suburban existence to pursue an acting career. Tommy (Buscemi) is a joker, an alcoholic and, increasingly, a loser; he is fired from his auto mechanic job for 'borrowing' $1,500 from the takings. His erstwhile boss, Mike, takes up with Tommy's long term girl­friend, now very pregnant with a kid who may or may not be Tommy's.

Tommy can't even get it together to fix his own car; he's too busy downing Wild Turkey at Trees Lounge bar. His behaviour damages himself more than any of his momentary victims, whose aghast reactions generate much of the humour.

Without manufacturing a climax, Buscemi poignantly conveys the aimless nature of the lives on display. Working-class New York is never tarted up as self-conscious downtown hipness; Buscemi knows his territory better than most and this first masterful turn behind the camera encapsulates an insular world of the lonely, luckless and lovelorn.

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