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Matt Porterfield directs the cast in a scene from PUTTY HILL

Matt Porterfield directs a cast of mostly nonprofessional actors in a scene from Putty Hill

PUTTY HILL (Matt Porterfield, 2010)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Francesca Beale Theater
144 West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Thursday, December 7, 6:30
Series runs November 24 - December 10

The city of Baltimore has not exactly been depicted kindly in film and on television, with such series as Homicide: Life on the Street, The Wire, and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood focusing on the rash of drugs and violence that have devastated the community, while native son John Waters has shown its wackier side in such films as Polyester and Hairspray. Born and raised in a suburb just inside the Baltimore city line, writer-director Matt Porterfield (Hamilton, I Used to Be Darker) has taken a different view in his second feature film, Putty Hill. When financing for his coming-of-age drama Metal Gods fell through, he decided to keep the cast and crew together and instead shoot a cinéma verité story about the after-effects of a young man’s drug overdose on a tight-knit community inspired by the one he grew up in. Not much is revealed about Cory as his funeral nears and life goes on, with his younger brother, Cody (Cody Ray), playing paintball with Cory’s friends; his uncle, Spike (Charles Sauers), tattooing customers in his apartment; and Spike’s daughter, Jenny (Sky Ferreira), returning to her hometown for the first time in several years and hanging out with her old friends like nothing much has changed. Working off a five-page treatment with only one line of scripted dialogue, Porterfield and cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier capture people just going on living, taking Cory’s death in stride; Porterfield interviews much of the cast, who share their thoughts and feelings in relatively unemotional ways. Shot on a minuscule budget in only twelve days, Putty Hill uses natural sound and light, nonprofessional actors, and real locations, enhancing its documentary-like feel, maintaining its understated narrative and avoiding any bombastic or sudden, big revelations. It’s a softly moving film, a tender tale about daily life in a contemporary American working-class neighborhood. Putty Hill is screening December 7 at 6:30 in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “The Non-Actor”; it will be introduced by Porterfield and preceded by Laida Lertxundi’s Cry When It Happens. The series continues through December 10 with such other films as Shirley Clarke’s The Cool World, Susumu Hani’s Furyo shonen, Spencer Williams’s The Blood of Jesus, and Peter Watkins’s Punishment Park.

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