Though considered "the Sunshine City" by its Chamber of Commerce, snowbirds and retirees, St. Petersburg, Florida is "a dirty, dirty town by a dirty, dirty sea" according to the disaffected youth of Loren Cass. A debut film by St. Pete native Chris Fuller who wrote, directed, edited, and stars in this low-budget indie, Loren Cass is set just after the race riots of 1996 sparked by the killing of an unarmed black teenager by white police officers during a traffic stop. Its three principal characters are white teens: skinhead Jason (Travis Maynard), greasemonkey Cale (Fuller), and waitress Nicole (Kayla Tabish). Jason drifts about boozing and brawling, Cale slogs through spirit-breaking dead-end work, and Nicole spreads her legs for whomever will have her.
Shot on Super 16 color film over two weeks in 2004, with sound design added over the following year and a half, Loren Cass is pure low-fi, low-budget staccato experimentation. What would be short establishing or transitional shots in other films are the meat of Loren Cass. Shots of kids riding in cars, sitting in diner booths or on curbs, lying on beds, walking aimlessly, spacing out, and just generally waiting for something (anything) to happen fills much of Loren Cass's 83-minute runtime with boozing, brawling and balling taking up most of the rest. Punctuating the footage of the listless protagonists is archival footage of St. Pete's riots, a punk performance by Leftover Crack, odds and ends such as footage of Pennsylvania bureaucrat Budd Dwyer blowing his brains out during a press conference, and long minutes of blackness. Even more frequent than the video digressions are the audio pieces which spin off into mournful trumpet, beat poetry, radical black propaganda, and other bits, accentuated by a soundtrack featuring the likes of Stiff Little Fingers, Hüsker Dü, Billy Bragg, and DJ Shadow.
Though inner monologues in Loren Cass are sometimes given form or voice in unexpected ways, Fuller appears disinterested in exploring character motivation or in pursuing traditional plot development. Loren Cass is about one thing: infusing the viewer with the bored, disaffected, undirected, mix of apathy and anger of his characters.
Whether one likes Loren Cass will have more to do with one's sympathies than with Fuller's skill as a filmmaker. Written when Fuller was 15, and filmed when he was 21, Loren Cass is an experiment trafficking in the ennui of modern middle-American youth. What Penelope Spheeris' Suburbia meant to many disaffected youth in '84, Loren Cass could mean to their kids now. It doesn't offer any solutions or even hope for something better, but it does provide the cold comfort of shared misery.
Video & Audio:
Loren Cass is presented in 1.85:1 letterbox. Reveling it is low-fi, low-budget roots, colors are washed out, contrast is low, and dirt and debris are frequent.
The 2.0 audio is monaural and flat with occasional tape hiss and background noise but with serviceably-recorded dialogue. Subtitles are not offered.
If you're a white teen or twenty-something trapped in nowhere, middle-America feeling that the world is ugly, boring, and pointless (or are keenly sympathetic to those who are) you'll probably discover much that resonates for you in Chris Fuller's Loren Cass. However, for viewers looking for a plot, character development, or conventional indicators of skilled filmmaking, Loren Cass doesn't have much to offer.