Student film pulls out big guns

“Be not deceived; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) This first quote informs the entire effort behind “The Davis Sisters,” a short, 32 minute undergraduate picture — adapted from Edward Allen Baker’s play “Dolores.” This short wears all the gloss of a “good movie” — the compliment given to student films for fine production values. It sounds good and looks even better. A lot of undergraduate weight went into the production, directed by Adam Davenport ’06 and produced by Christian Clark ’06. They created Bulldog Productions, an undergraduate organization, to fund Davenport’s student picture, and an overall budget of ten thousand dollars makes a proud pile.

In the opening scene, jazz preps the audience for a charming, Woody Allen back and forth, but, instead, plays over a scene of domestic violence. This mismatch of moods dizzies us as spectators, placing us in a topsy-turvy scene. The fight sprouts from Dolores’ man’s unemployment. A litter of beer cans surround Dolores’ man. She, armed with disapproval and apathy, enrages him. The manner in which he governs the television remote control lays fear into our hearts. After he swings the first fist hard, the camera retreats to the fish tank, the soundtrack continuing with the abuse. The cutaway lets our imaginations play out the scene. A real description of events flashes back later in the movie to deliver the final repercussions.

Here the story cuts between Dolores, hurrying from her blow up, and her sister Sandra, vacuuming a polished, bourgeois home. Dolores bursts into Sandra’s home for an un-welcome visit that lasts the daylong. Their friendship pops with rare, secret moments of intimacy, privy only to those inside the sisterhood — yet still memorable for anyone who’s ever experienced a relationship. It’s in the way Dolores asks Sandra for a cupcake — like a little girl. Dolores appeases her married sister by evoking their girlhood — and the abuse from their mom that they probably shared. Their family story both diverges and converges. One sister has followed a simple path of marriage and family while the other has lived a rough but charmed existence. Both end up seeking an abusive relationship.

The camera-work maintains a consistently pretty picture. A particularly nice shot has the sisters sitting in the car with leaves reflected on the overhead. It offers a beautiful cradle for peering into their conversation. Lauren Wilson ’04, credited for art direction, brings brightness to the sets and wardrobes, which combine perfectly. Sandra wears J. Crew stripes and lives in the Bombay Company. Exterior locations such as the New Haven elms and nearby beach offer beautiful spectacles. Yet despite this effort to dress scenes with settings, there remains an unsatisfied wish for whimsy. A bit more relish and daring in details and this spectacle would levitate more toward four stars. Overall, this features as a fine hallmark of a well-funded, well-produced student film.

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