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Movie Review

Septien

Meeting of brothers, beard, and bizarre

'Septien' Michael Tully in a scene from "Septien." (Sundance Selects)
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / July 15, 2011

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"Septien’’ is a microscopic piece of shoestring weirdness-slash-hipster regionalism that the actor Robert Longstreet delivers into some odder, funkier, altogether mysterious place. I don’t know what he’s doing or what he’s going for. But unlike the rest of the movie, his bizarreness seems authentic rather than forced or put on. The movie is set among some adult brothers in and around a big dilapidated farm somewhere in the South, and when a sullen, skinny brother arrives wearing a giant beard (it’s Cornel West upside down), Longstreet embraces him and, later, at the dinner table asks: “And would it be too much for you to tell us where you’ve been for the last 18 years?’’ It’s the “last 18 years’’ part that’s funny. It’s a funny line, yes. But Longstreet spreads some queeny mayonnaise on it.

Were blithe anguish even possible, it would be something like doing Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois at the same time. But Longstreet is doing Vivien Leigh doing Divine in a David Lynch movie directed by Hal Hartley, all while looking like a dad in the Home Depot lumber yard. The writer and director, Michael Tully, appears to have improvised a lot of the film, which features a disinterred camcorder, someone who sleeps in a tractor tire, a shady plumber, lots of drawings starring erect penises (Onur Tukel plays the artist), and Tully himself in the Cornel West beard. The men are named Ezra and Wilbur, Cornelius and Amos. It’s all a labored sort of strange, like someone forcing himself to have a bad dream. Not Longstreet, who’s both in his own little world and very much in this movie.

At some point his denim shirt becomes a frilly sleeveless denim blouse, which Longstreet wears with a straight face. His one scarily abrupt transition from vexation to sweetness over whether a visitor drives onto the property prompts the movie’s best line regarding the sanity of what we’ve been watching. Tully is going for arch Southern gothic, and the humid atmosphere is right but it’s not even a little bit serious about the psychosexual subtext involving a bad football coach. But whether he’s in jeans or a sundress, Longstreet is worth seeing. The perfect battiness he lends this movie evokes a different one. In addition to everything else, wandering around this mess of a house, he’s nothing less than a one-man “Grey Gardens.’’

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com or followed on Twitter: @wesley_morris.

SEPTIEN Directed by: Michael Tully

Starring: Robert Longstreet, Tully, and Onur Tukel

At: Brattle

Running time: 79 minutes

Unrated (some profanity and explicitly sexual drawing)

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