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"We were really interested in mixing professionals and non-professionals," Kalman said. "Whether it's low budget teen shows or Andy Warhol's short films, we like the way that amateur actors come off."
Hoberman quotes the underground filmmaker Jack Smith as saying, "A bad actor is rich, unique, idiosyncratic, revealing." Which is another way of saying that bad acting is honest. In Blondes, the players earnestly read the lines past each other, eschewing conversation for what amounts to a series of surreal monologues. The line readings are stilted, almost autistic. When the dealer Armani meets the blondes, he riffs: "Hunter College on the 4,5,6! Good school. Coke's for shit, though. Who's your dealer? Arm and Hammer? May as well just go to the supermarket. Bake yourself a cake." He's a overplayed, self-conscious Zach Morris, talking prep-school jive.
"Where other people might say a stagey or caricatured performance makes the story less believable, we say it makes it more realistic," Kalman said.
The directors have been shaped by eclectic group of influences. They cite Eric Rohmer for his characters' meandering conversations, and Whit Stillman for his mannered, slightly anachronistic dialogue. And there's Herzog, too, specifically his jungle-exploration film White Diamond (2004). Yet there are patently low-brow influences as well, mostly from television. Kalman loves Miami Vice and the current ABC Family show Greek. And he and Horn both adore the Degrassi series, a love they share, oddly, with the director Kevin Smith, who has made several guest appearances on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Kalman and Horn plan to send Smith a copy of their film.
"He's really helpful with all the kids," Horn says. "It made me affectionate about him."
Since 2004, Kalman and Horn have made music videos for the likes of Books on Tape and Aa and shorts with the goofy titles "O, Nurse!" "Jazz Christmas," and "Fun's Over." They started making movies together after Horn's uncle gave her a 16mm camera. Neither have studied film, and both still have day jobs, though Horn slyly said: "I don't know what I do for a living."
The production in Honduras contained moments that might have been outtakes from the movie itself. Horn shot the movie while Kalman held the mike; when he was busy elsewhere, sturdy overhanging trees stood in as sound men. Deep in the jungle, the crew's young Honduran guides got to mark the scenes with a clapperboard, much to their delight. Horn's diligence with the equipment couldn't stop an inquisitive spider from getting into the camera.
Still, this is a long way from the screwball set of an Ed Wood movie. Despite the directors' "anti-professional" credo, the shoot felt, well, professional.
"It was really like working on a movie," Kalman remembered. "Not that we had PAs running around or anything, but just that this is what we'd always wanted to do. Even though it wasn't a Hollywood experience, there was a little bit of it. We ate dinner with the cast every night, everyone going over lines." He paused a moment, then smiled. "I love playing director."
Blondes in the Jungle screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 11 at Santos Party House, followed by live music from John Atkinson (Brooklyn's Aa) and Julianna Barwick, who collaborated with others on movie's excellent "1987 Wold Beat" soundtrack under the name El Jefe and the Executive Look.