Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America (2004)

Film details


The three films that make up Buck's cheerless trilogy are entitled Cutting Moments (25m:32s), Home (28m:47s) and Prologue (51m:31s), and while they each can be viewed independently, it is best to watch them in sequence for maximum impact. In reality, the less said about the plot machinations of Buck's work the better, because his spartan storytelling doles out small, vague fragments that eventually come together into something truly hideous, and the gory denouement (courtesy of Tom Savini) in the trilogy's first part-Cutting Moments-sends the message that unexpected and brutal ugliness will be the recurrent theme in his vision of suburbia. It would be too easy to ruin the impact of any of these short films by explicitly describing the plot specifics, so I won't, and it would only diminish the way Buck chooses to let a given tale unfold. Just be warned that the content is extremely grim and downbeat, filled with minimalist everyday small talk that leads to startling resolutions. No happy endings here.

By far Buck's best work here comes with the final piece-Prologue-a noticeably more polished film that offers less visual shock value and a more carefully constructed method of storytelling that reveals tragic details in tiny doses as the narrative shifts between two sets of characters, and the viewer is left spending a good portion of the time trying to decipher how they are connected. The slow reveal is certainly less in-your-face than his other two family chapters, but Prologue delivers the most profoundly disturbing emotional punch, thanks in large part to wonderfully detached performances by William Stone Mahoney and Sally Conway.

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