Director: Jim Mickle
Writer: Nick Damici & Jim Mickle
Cinematographer: Ryan Samul
by Jon Cvack
The first movie from Jim Mickle. Given the $60,000 budget and ‘8 Films to Die For’ branding (which has been extremely disappointing every time I’ve checked one out) I wasn’t expecting much from this film. Wrong yet again. Mulberry Street takes its budgetary weakness and more than makes up for it with his resourceful strength. He was lobbied to change the title and fought to preserve the cryptic name in order to preserves the film’s message about gentrification, which he was witnessing on - I assume - Mulberry Street (though as an added bit of trivia, I’m currently reading Edmund Morris’s The Rise of Theodore Roosvelt and discovered that he was President of the Police Commission that was stationed on the same Mulberry Street, which is quite a coincidence in that this was the next essay up for polishing and publication and I just so happened to be reading the specific chapter on Teddy's tenure on Mulberry Street. Was it shot around the same Mulberry Street where Mickle filmed? Probably not, as I'm assuming that, like most urban streets, it's very large. Still, the idea that a single street would possess the famous Teddy Roosevelt and about 110 years later, film a zombie-rat film is mildly interesting to think about). Any way -
The film is shot with grainy and green handheld digital video, which is quickly becoming analogous to vinyl, in that there was only a brief window during the late 90s/mid-late 00s where affordable digital video looked this bad and I'm now starting to appreciate the handful of films that utilized it well. It’s the very limits of this cheap and underdeveloped technology that Mickle pushes to create a very engaging style. There was actually a feature film KickStarter that was deliberately using a VHS camera as its primary. The aesthetic had become so antiquated that it moved beyond hilariously awful to a nostalgic appreciation. To think of all the cameras that now exist for filmmakers to pick up in order to capture a particular moment in our recent digital history - not that this was the point of Mulberry Street, as it seemed to have genuinely gotten the best camera it could get - is very exciting for the future of low budget independent film; similar to choosing a particular brand of microphone or guitar, no matter the age, for its unique sound.
The film is an early zombie film, using diphtheric rats, which sounds boring given how I don’t know any good horror film with rats, but makes you appreciate the film all the more so since, by extension, this would make it the de facto best rat-horror film of all time, though I haven’t really done all that much research. The supporting and bit characters alone are what really stand out, with each character having shape and dimension rather than operating as a momentary piece of meat, with no purpose other than to face a gory end. What allows the film to soar beyond low budget is convention is the solid action and impressive acting. It’s here that we get the first taste Mickle’s signature crew, with Nick Damici once again, who will roll with him all the way up to Mickle's lateest - Cold in July. I’m still wanting to know how they got to know one another. Added is the city-itself, in that with Mulberry Street, you get the feeling that you’re actually watching a film that knows New York City rather than just taking place in New York City. Given all I’m seeing about century old businesses closing, landmarks getting demolished and replaced with yuppie strip malls or extravagant chain banks, I loved being taken inside the old building and cared about its decay.
It’s clear as to why Jim Mickle would go on to make such great films with such modest budgets. This is an amazing debut from someone who had the passion to make a feature and utilized any and all resources. It’s a guerrilla style film that’s made well. A great blueprint to watch for anyone struggling to make their first no-budget movie.
See my other thoughts on Mickle's We Are What We Are
BELOW: The video title sums it up well. Keep in mind this is a $60,000 film
Thoughts on films, old and new
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