The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (6)
| Top Critics (1)
| Fresh (0)
| Rotten (6)
Everyone in this soggy tale of maternal reproductive instincts gone berserk is wisely attired in Wellingtons at one time or another, but it can't save them from sinking in the spreading sludge.
A lacklustre mishmash of voodoo humbug, pregnancy and domestic frustrations, set in a grey, desolate community in the Irish countryside, Puffball is carelessly plotted, haphazardly stringing together obscure scenes and all-too-obvious hints.
It is part drama, part supernatural mystery, part nativity play and part horror - but somehow always less than the sum of its parts, as though Roeg cannot quite bring his generic hybrid to full term.
Puffball is a surprisingly terrible movie.
Nicolas Roeg wants to touch some deep forgotten chords of the old days here, when the feel of things that go bump in the night was more than simply a yearly holiday for kids but he never latches onto the vibe and so neither do we. The shadows are there, but not fully realized, and so the things a waste by the end, before the end. Don Sutherland coasts through the film with a smile on his face that seems to imply: "I can't believe they're paying me for this shit." You'll quickly come to see his point unfortunately.
Interesting failure for fans of Roeg. His trademark visual style is all present but often incorrect - the foetal/puffball overlays look cheap and are unnecessary. The film works when it focuses on earthly realities but its supernatural leanings are woefully inept - amazing given the director's pedigree. The music is a mixed bag but at least original. Missed opportunity.
Before I'd seen "Puffball" I was actually quite indignant that a significant work by a visionary director should be so difficult to get hold of; having seen it, I'd sympathize with any distributor who wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. One of the trademarks of Nicolas Roeg's directorial style has been the use of such devices as visual metaphors, recurring motifs, unanswered questions, tantalising glimpses of back-story, ambiguous dialogue, etc, to give his films a textural depth without recourse to conventional characterisation or storytelling, a technique most brilliantly demonstrated in "Don't Look Now". No amount of clever artifice, however, is quite enough to convince us that there's more to "Puffball" than meets the eye.
A tale of baby envy and witchery set in rural Ireland, I had hoped this might be something like cross between "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Wicker Man"; "Rosemary's Baby" and "Emmerdale" [British soap opera] would be nearer the mark. Miranda Richardson and Tina Kellegher, as sisters, try hard to inject some fun into the film, and the sight of Rita Tushingham using a second-hand condom to make a love potion has a certain novelty value, but Kelly Reilly and Oscar Pearce are dreadful as the young leads. Donald Sutherland pops up as Lars, architect Reilly's mentor, who spouts some Nordic pagan gibberish and buggers off again, presumably to leave us pondering his part in the dreary historical mystery Roeg keeps alluding to, but likely as not you'll be too busy wondering how this Roeg/Sutherland reunion could be so bloody awful.
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