Indie Films Find Creative Ways to Make You Squirm

Article excerpt

Hollywood is often criticized for lapses of taste. But if you're looking for truly creative ways of making moviegoers squirm, see what some independent and international filmmakers are up to.

Storytelling comes from Todd Solondz, a deliberately outrageous writer-director who's facing the biggest challenge of his career - how to stay outrageous by coming up with fresh psychosexual jolts in every new film. "Welcome to the Dollhouse" chronicled the sensual awakening of a nerdy adolescent girl, and "Happiness" plunged into scandalous subjects from pedophilia to murder. After these, what do you do for an encore?

Solondz searches for the answer via two separate stories in "Storytelling." The first, subtitled "Fiction," probes the tensions between a disabled student, his fickle girlfriend, and the African- American man who teaches their creative-writing class. The second, "Nonfiction," follows the ineffectual exploits of a wannabe filmmaker who decides to shoot a documentary about a teenage boy who's almost as pallid and pathetic as he is.

Solondz is a serious, almost anthropological filmmaker who feels a genuine affinity with the pathetic specimens of humanity he frequently portrays. The sexually explicit climax of "Fiction" is as explosive a depiction of contemporary social relations as we're likely to see, bringing to the surface a seething mixture of psychological pressures - rooted in race, gender, and class - that gains much of its shock value from the fact that it's as readily recognizable as it is virtually invisible in today's culture. …