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DEAD LEAVES

This no-budgeter is uniquely stark and creepy but also excessively drawn out and monotonous, essentially a promising short stretched to feature length.

The Package
     DEAD LEAVES unfortunately shares the title of a popular 2004 anime, and the two are often confused (see the Amazon.com listing for this one, which contains a product description and user reviews for the other). This DEAD LEAVES is a live action no-budgeter by the German filmmaker Constantin Werner (of 2009’s PAGAN QUEEN), completed in 1998 and released on DVD by Cult Epics in 2005.

The Story
     Joey and Laura are a white trash couple living in seeming harmony in New York City…until one day Laura falls, hits her head and dies. A couple of undertakers turn up at Joey and Laura’s filthy apartment to haul the corpse away, but the mentally unstable Joey steals it out from under them. Thus begins a cross country road trip with Laura’s cadaver in the front seat.
     In a cheap New Jersey motel Joey makes up Laura’s corpse and paints her toenails. Flashbacks fill us in on his oft-stormy relationship with Laura, who was as moody and unstable in her way as Joey himself.
     One morning Joey’s car is stolen. He’s left to aimlessly wander until unexpectedly happening upon the abandoned car, which still contains Laura’s corpse.
     Joey resumes his East Coast odyssey, sleeping in sleazy motel rooms as Laura’s corpse steadily decomposes. He ends up hauling Laura across a beach in West Virginia, where he finally lies down beside the body and shoots himself.

The Direction
    
You’ll know from the start of this film, in which lovers frolic while Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” is read on the soundtrack, whether DEAD LEAVES is for you. It contains a deeply morbid, squalid air reminiscent of gross-out opuses like BEYOND THE DARKNESS or NEKROMANTIK, but it’s also arty and affected to a fault (as elucidated in the opening credits, intercut with photos of Poe, Charles Baudelaire, Antonin Artaud, etc).
     The “action” is relentlessly slow and uneventful, favoring contemplative pans across ugly industrial landscapes and lengthy scenes of the protagonist brooding on park benches, watching TV in hotel rooms, driving in circles, etc. The point, I suppose, is to dramatize Joey’s inner torment and hopelessness, although I can’t help but feel that Constantin Werner was simply padding his running time--and anyway, after a while the film comes to feel like a travelogue, and an extremely boring one at that.
 

Vital Statistics

DEAD LEAVES
Red Lion Tamarin Production/Cult Epics

Director: /Producer/Screenwriter: Constantin Werner
Cinematography: Mindaugas Blaudziunas
Editing: Scott Cookson
Cast: Haim Abramsky, Elizabeth Gondek, Ken Cypert, Christopher Medina, John Gilbert
 

     

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