Independent film Buzzard, by writer/director Joel Potrykus, includes a 5-minute take of a man eating spaghetti. It’s a static shot of actor Joshua Burge stuffing his face with meatballs and noodles. In this scene — and the rest of the film — Potrykus and Burge find something out of nothing. You sit transfixed watching a long haired, droopy faced twenty-year old sit on a hotel bed eating a “twenty dollar” plate of spaghetti. There’s nothing else to it — not any inner turmoil being solidified through animal-like eating, not any plot development, or even interesting photography — it’s just a guy eating spaghetti. Yet the filmmakers make it mesmerizing. It’s not cinema, but it’s certainly something.
The guy who eats spaghetti, Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge), spells his name for a second time in order to scam a corporation out of fifty bucks. He’s a temp at a bank, and spends his days doing petty grifts. He calls frozen pizza corporations, sifts through McDonald’s trash cans, and cashes checks that aren’t his (even though he doesn’t bother to figure out how checking works). He’s a lazy con man who doesn’t think of the consequences. He’s a child, whose least honest, yet most truthful moments, come from talking to his mother on the phone. He tells her petty lies of popularity and success. He pretends to hate the corporate world, only so he has an excuse to not work. Potrykus and Burge create a character who has little surface motivation, causing the audience to hang on to every tick and every word. This is why watching him eat a plate of spaghetti is so engrossing. We want to understand the character, and his actions.
The film follows Marty through the most quotidian things — underlined by Potrykus’s long take technique and Burge’s acting — creating a sense importance where there otherwise would be none. It being an independent film, there are some technical problems (notably some audio issues), but Potrykus’s story, and casting talent, makes it endlessly watchable.
The world that Potrykus creates — filled with freeloaders, weasels, and corporate slaves — doesn’t take sides. Its character spouts opinions, but behind the camera is a sense of objectivity. Potrykus gives us something original to wrestle with in his world without heroes.