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The Reel Iron Man
A nasty word for a lovely thing.
Not a week goes by when I don’t read a complaint or critique on the overuse of the word “content” as it applies to various art mediums. Concerning film, content is a nasty word, representing the worst aspects of corporate “progress” off the backs of independent filmmakers. CONTENT: The Lo-Fi Man, co-directed by two such indie misfits, weaponizes its satirical approach against the tide of control and endless/meaningless data-driven drivel, by finding inspiration from the past and getting candid with the next generation.
The short, from Brian Lonano (director of Gwilliam) and Blake Myers (director of Disabled But Able to Rock), kicks off with a singularity event, striking down on a video shoot from a Lonano himself, as he tries to discuss the classic Japanese sci-fi horror Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Lonano, in his professional jacket and an air of academia, is data-moshed into oblivion by an unseen force and transformed into a super self-promoter, also named Brian Lonano. From here, the new variant peppers in subscribe buttons and advertisement logos, and is whipped into a frenzy about “content.” Well, by force. A true whipping by the unseen force.
When the chroma keying is removed and the veil is lifted, Lonano #2 is revealed to be but a drone worker (or content creator), squeezing out gruel to eat on breaks and held at gunpoint by a gas mask-wearing guard, donned with two mouse ears on his helmet (laugh out loud). In CONTENT, artists are commodified to the fullest and lobotomized at the soonest - that is unless they give in. An escape, a meeting with underground filmmakers, and a confrontation with a robot, ultimately lead Lonano #2 to his ultimate destiny.
What made Tetsuo: The Iron Man such a shock and so incredibly memorable wasn’t just its passion to “create,” but its hardcore and aggressive attitude. CONTENT isn’t aggressive or angry or even mean, but it does point out the weight that bears down on artists from industry gatekeepers, and the naive nature of some artists when dealing with corporate constraints and confinement.
Brian Lonano and Blake Myers are both formidable and practical filmmakers that I’ve had the pleasure of following for quite a while - two cool dudes who love anti-establishment sentiments, D.I.Y. props and designs, and buckets of blood (of course). Previous short films from Lonano and Myers, such as Crow Hand and the great mad science zombie tale Munching Your Motherfucking Nubs, are proof positive of their respective sensibilities as filmmakers and attitudes toward control.
CONTENT: The Lo-Fi Man is clever and quick, slow and low, fun and funny. It has plenty to say and make fun of, from the top down of the
content creation filmmaking industry, from the owners and operators to the dreamers and guerillas. In the end, its most successful defense is offense, where inspiration is flattery and VHS is freedom. In this way, Lonano’s vision of doing a film appreciation video comes alive, and a Lo-Fi Man is born from Tetsuo tape-trading and found independent spirit. It may be a slap-happy and safely-violent continuation of a modern conversation, but its message is clear and confident: Don’t be content with “content.” 3.5/5
CONTENT: The Lo-Fi Man is currently screening on the film festival circuit.
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