THE USUAL (1991) [Feature]

USA (MIFF 1992 )
Director: Eric Tretbar

Minneapolis is a place rarely associated with filmmaking. Yet it's unquestionably home sweet home to director, writer and editor Eric Tretbar, who seems to know the territory like the back of his hand — from landmarks like Lyle's Liquor and Grill and a strange memorial to a spoon, right down to the mid-Wesf s unhurried rhythms and goofy charm.

Claire, a waitress at Lyle's Liquor and Grill, is having a fling with Spike, the short-order cook who would rather be lazing on Claire's bed strumming his guitar. Interrupting their cosy affair is Claire's old flame Aldo, who has moved on to the big city but is only ever a phone call or letter away. And of course, a few hundred miles are no obstacle to a yearning heart.

The title says it all. The film is perfectly content to loll about with its goofy, lackadaisi­cal characters as they go through the rituals of their everyday lives; cheeseburgers, bed, love, hopes, a neurotic boss, imposing families, etc. Writes Tretbar: "I've always been more inter­ested in everyday experience than dramatic hyperbole, so I tried to write and shoot in a way which would encourage people to consid­er moments in their lives they might normally ignore."

The film, like its characters, has a quirky and thoroughly innocent charm, and a free­wheeling structure that is well and truly liberat­ed from the straight-jackets of conventional narrative cinema. Here is a film that helps define that all-too-often misplaced tag of con­temporary American cinema, 'the independent'.

• Paul Kalina

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