Relaxer - Relaxer(Blu Ray) [Anti-Worlds Releasing - 2020]2018ís Relaxer is a difficult film to bracket, & itís also very much of love or late affair too. I guess you could call it maybe a slacker art house film, a mocking parody of our screen-based culture, or a blend of stoner drama, comedy, with later bizarre fantasy/ horror elements- but whatever you call it Relaxer is extremely distinctive, at times inspired picture that really wonít be for everyone. From Anti-Worlds Releasing hereís a recent double-disc release of the film- bringing together a new director's commentary track, and extras- plus the director's second film 2014ís Buzzard (having its UK debut here) with again a good selection of extras.
Relaxer was the fourth film directed & written by Grand Rapids, MI-based Joel Potrykus. The film is completely set in a one-room apartment, which Potrykus managers to capture the location in a creative, at times very quirky manner. The film has an extremely small cast, and for most of the time weíre focusing just on a single person- so both in its set-up, concept, and unfold this is very different.
The films set in mid-to-late 1999, and then flip over to Y2k. It introduces us to the early twenties brothers Abbie(Joshua Burge) & Cam(David Dastmalchian)- the pair live in a rundown, graffiti marked, and cluttered apartment. When we meet the pair Abbie, bug-eyed, topless & sweating is playing Tony Hawks Pro Skater on the pairs crusty sofa. And Cam- more imposing & vocal older brother is taunting & challenging Abbie to first one dumb task after another- first we see him getting his younger brother to drink one bottle of rank milk after another- then when he spews. The films main challenge/ focus comes in soon with Abbie having to play up to level 256 on Pac-Man, and not leaving the sofa. Fairly soon Cam departs & we focus in on Abbie, his task, and the various people & issues that come into his space.
The film is largely score-less, save for more grand & dramatic intro/ outro music, and occasional more rising & gamey like synth music. So the film is based purely on dialogue, and Abbie trying to survive in the apartment- which as we move along gets more bizarre, and at times downright surreal. In the lead role of Abbie Burge does carry the film very well, as the twitchy, sweating, awkward, and lacking in confidence slacker. Dastmalchian is believable as the dominant brother, and the supporting cast of the various characters that come into the room a well-drawn & quirky too. Thereís no doubt that on paper watching an hour & a half of a weedy/ troubled slacker on a sofa should be terminal drab, tiring & pointless- and to some, it will be. But I found the whole thing very oddly compelling, entrancing & very original in both itís structure, slyly clever at times amusing dialogue, and what it says about our modern culture- taking in screen culture, comfort zones, and mankind's basic need to depart from the day-to-day grind. In itís later half the film takes some very surprising & bizarre twists, I wonít detail them here- as itís best to go into this fairly blind. Anyway, I didnít expect to enjoy Relaxer as much as I did, and Iíd say if your looking after something rather different coming from a slacker angle then youíve got to check this out.
On the extras side, we get a commentary track from director/ writer Joel Potrykus- and this is a decidedly quirky track, as along the way he plays improvised electronica & his baby son drops in- over the length of the track he points out background details/ easter eggs, talks about influences on the film, the cast & how they got the roles, and much more- itís certainly one of the more original & total unpretentious directors track I've heard. Next, we get seven minutes of behind the scene footage, a five minute deleted scene, rehearsal footage, and more. We also get a selection of six short films from Potrykus- these date from between his teens & last year and have run times between two & twenty-four minutes.
Moving onto the second disc, and this features Buzzard & a good selection of extras. Released in 2014 Buzzard was the second feature-length film from Potrykus, and very much his break-through film. Once again itís a difficult film to categorize- bringing together elements of cringe-inducing/ awkward humor, slacker drama, punked art house, with moments of intensity & violence. The film focuses on delinquent slacker cum horror film fan/ gamer Marty Jackitansky- played by Joshua Burge once again- when we meet him heís work as a temp in the head offices of bank/ mortgage company. After the rough Ďní ready title credits which see him smash stuff up with a gaming glove on, we get a face-on shot of Marty closing his bank account, then trying to open a new one to get $50.00 credit- and this really sets the character for the rest of the film, as he tries to con/rip-off one person after another. Burge is good in the lead role, playing a much more sleazed & confrontational character than his role in Relaxer. The supporting cast is very small- as he moves from one scam to the next in a fairly episodic manner. The only other constant( for the first hour or so) is his extremely geeky & bolding work buddy Derek- played by Potrykus, who does a great job as an awkward-trying-to-be-cool geek. The film sort of switches itís tone/ feel as it goes on- it starts as a more Anchonic version of The Office, then switches to a quirky slacker take on Jeff, Who Lives at Home, before going into much more episodic travel log. The film certainly has itís moments, and the hour or so- save some of the more lingering shots- it's rewarding- I felt it became a little aimless/ shapeless in its final quarter- feeling rather like they didnít know quite how to tie things up. Iíd say if you like the idea of awkward comedy i.e. The Office, Iím Alan Partridge, or Curb Your Enthusiasm- blended with slacker-later punk arthouse sentiment, then I think youíll get something from Buzzard- though I donít feel itís as an effective or interesting as Relaxer- but itís certainly a great bonus.
Moving onto the extras second disc- and we once again get a director's commentary track, and this finds Potrykus talking about his personal experience working as a temp as an influence on the film's plot, going onto discuss locations, shot setups & music choices. When he appears on screen as Derek- he goes on to talk about who influenced his writing the character, trying to find someone play the role, and in the end him doing it himself- he discusses letting his hair grow-out as a horseshoe and growing a bad goaty- that he was most embarrassed about. As he goes on he talks about easter eggs & items in the background, going onto talk about the development of the game glove/ Freddy claw prop that appears throughout the film. This tracks a little sporadic but interesting enough.
Next on the extra front, we get a just over hour-long rehearsal of much of the films footage, and this gives you a nice insight into the writing/ development of the project with a few scenes been a little different from the finished product. Next, we get a nine-minute doc about the crew & some of the cast going to an Italian film festival, nine minutes of behind the scene footage, deleted scenes, a one minute guide to films easter eggs, and an image gallery/ trailer.
Relaxer is certainly a very distinctive and usual film- thatís most certainly not for everyone. Iíd say if you like the idea of more arty tinged slacker fair, that darts into drama & comedy- before disappearing off somewhere rather unexpected & bizarrely creative- give this a go- but do give it time to grow/ sink in before you give up. The new Anti-Worlds Releasing double disc set is pretty great really- with the quirky commentary, and rewarding extras- then, of course, you get the big bonus of the second film & all of itís extraÖso if you looking for something a little different & bizarre with a slacker/ stoner leaning you'll need to pick up this two-disc set!.Roger Batty