Two Karpovskys for the price of one? The mumblecore semiceleb directed and stars in this pair of recent low-budget movies, which the Film Society of Lincoln Center is screening as a double feature. Red Flag is the weaker of the two, in no small part because of its irritatingly meta narrative: Karpovsky plays a director named Alex Karpovsky, who travels around the country with his most recent film, even though he’s just been devastated by a breakup. Though often funny, there’s a reverse narcissism in the way Karpovsky wallows in his “character’s” off-putting flaws, something the especially fraudulent last scene only exacerbates.
A too-pat ending also spoils Rubberneck (shorter: Mommy made me do it!), though it doesn’t ruin the steely pleasures of the filmmaking. Karpovsky plays Paul, a Boston lab technician who has a fling with a coworker (Jaime Ray Newman). She rejects all his subsequent advances, which results in some barely contained jealousies coming to a boil. This tightly constructed genre piece makes perfect use of the actor’s quietly threatening qualities—most creepily in his antiseptic, guinea-pig-filled workspace—which are reminiscent of a young Tom Noonan. In both movies you can see genuine talent poking through the festival-circuit tedium; hopefully Karpovsky’s better instincts will win out next time.
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