The Rambler [Blu-Ray] Calvin Reeder

The Rambler [Blu-Ray] Calvin Reeder
9
Structurally and stylistically, The Rambler is abstract from the get-go. The titular rambler's (Dermot Mulroney) prison sentence is presented in deliberately alienating montage form, having a fragmented, discomforting quality that suggests metaphysical contemplation — when incarcerated, the day-to-day becomes little more than a series of repetitive images and experiences. Within minutes, he's released, left standing in an open expanse outside of the prison staring curiously at strange lights in the sky. Their associated sound clues us in as to what might have happened, and what "freedom" might be for a prisoner, but don't necessarily prepare us for the barrage of disturbing, simultaneously horrific and hilarious images about to unfold in a white trash art film capacity. The Rambler is, in essence, a speculative mishmash of signifiers of a life presented in a surrealist style, tying in regrets, mistakes, hopes, love and worldly experiences into a tangential, oft-repetitive potpourri of compounding psychological deconstructions of the self when forced to confront mortality. It's like a more oblique Wristcutters: A Love Story, only less overt about its situational construct in a reality adjacent to our own. The rambler drifts from town to town, encountering a series of people that reveal concealed clues: an old man attempts to record dreams on VHS tape; a trailer park owner ties his deformed sister to a stake with a chain; a poker game devolves into carnage; and so on. Most consistent are the experiences he has with a woman (Lindsay Pulsipher) he sees riding a horse while drinking a martini. Their unspoken connection, which vacillates between romance and brutal violence — she's torn apart by dogs and dismembered in car accidents — suggests loss and regret driving his psychological revelations. How it all fits together is never fully explained, but the focus and trajectory of the fragmented narrative, which escalates and becomes increasingly erratic and anarchic, make clear what's going on. While the sleazy locales and unwashed, middle-American, small town dynamic of it all suggest cool alienation and an existential void, the biggest surprise about The Rambler is that it's a rather touching and sensitive story about love and loss. As such, it could easily be dismissed or mocked by the cynical or emotionally limited, seeing as its dreamlike nature can be interpreted subjectively, but there's something very calculated and moving about how everything eventually fits together. In a cinematic landscape where straightforward exposition and traditionalist narration, like that of a novel, are almost ubiquitous, it's refreshing to watch a film that utilizes the medium for its greater emotional potential. No supplements are included, which is apt, since explanation would likely ruin the enjoyment of experiencing a movie left open for personal interpretation. (Anchor Bay)