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Written and directed by Tomer Almagor (Spare, Hesperia) and produced by Gabrielle Almagor (King for a Day: The Story of the Bre-X Gold Scandal, Waves), 9 Full Moons is a twisting and brooding tale of Frankie and Lev, two misfits in the vast and often terrifying landscape of Los Angeles.
Watching the Los Angeles screening at New Filmmakers LA at the AT&T center in downtown Los Angeles last week, I felt a pained sense of discomfort that comes when one is faced with an ugly, and personal, truth.
The Los Angeles portrayed in the film is the hipster music mecca of the West: the Silver Lake and Echo Park neighborhoods of East LA, dotted with palm trees, eclectic cafes, and those elusive dive bars where the next darling of the indie music scene gets discovered.
It’s an interesting place, to be sure. At once aiming for artistic integrity, freedom, and liberated lifestyles, yet still deeply committed to the orgasmic grab for fame, status, and materialism. Director Tomer Almagor chose this paradox of a city as the backdrop for his tale of two lost souls and how their lives intertwine, leaving both changed forever.
Frankie, played by Amy Seimetz (Tiny Furniture, Family Tree), lives alone in a house on hill, and presumably makes a living out of refurbishing and selling odds and ends she finds abandoned in dumpsters: forgotten lamps with tilted lampshades, well-loved chairs past their prime, and other such treasures. She spends her evenings hanging out at the local dives, surrounded by an alternative crowd of musicians and their handlers, wannabes, hangers-on, and pseudo-spiritual seekers.
Frankie is like many young women in LA who get caught up in the pervasive pseudo-hippie, pseudo-artist subculture that tends to use pseudo-New Age intellectual and spiritual ideas to justify its hedonism and to manipulate others. Her attractiveness has allowed her to just barely skim by, never really finding true freedom and autonomy, but never finding herself completely destitute. She unquestioningly follows the lead of those around her, who – in their inability to take control of their own lives – live in and perpetuate a booze-filled illusion of glamor and the instant gratification of love, sex, and happiness. Her devil-may-care front covers her confusion, vulnerability, pain, and fear and a desperation to find love and a safe corner to call her own.
Frankie just wants to be loved, accepted, and validated. She talks too much, drinks too much, and trusts too much. She gets raped by a “friend” who offered to take her home the same night she met Lev. When she tells Lev this, she does it in such a casual and flippant way that we suspect it may not have been her first brush with unwanted sexual attention – but then again, in the world that Frankie inhabits, what is really wanted, and what is not? Where is the line drawn? We get the feeling Frankie may be blaming herself, after all, she “didn’t know it was happening until it was almost over.”
Lev, played by Bret Roberts (Pearl Harbor, May) is a music editor. Unlike Frankie, he keeps his words to a minimum; instead, putting most of his energy into his darkened studio, where he works long hours making other people’s music sound good. When he speaks, he has a specific thing to say – although he keeps far more things unsaid.
Unlike the people in Frankie’s life, Lev honors his commitments and stands true to his integrity. He fosters relationships that he respects more than wealth or status. He’s not taken in by grand and pretentious proclamations, or insincere attempts at half-truths.
Lev has a friend named Ronnie, played by Brian McGuire (Cold Case, Blue Dream), who is a often insufferable slick-talking music talent manager, with an eye for dividends rather than talent. When Ronnie starts representing the aging country-alternative star Charlie King Nash, played by Donal Logue ( Sons of Anarchy, The Patriot), he gets Lev in on the project. However, Charlie King Nash turns out to be an self-satisfied has-been, who seems fueled more by the days of his former glory rather than any genuine artistic expression. (Fortunately, however, in the end, Lev is able to bring Charlie back to the soul of his music).
The film follows Frankie and Lev as they fall in love and as their relationship snakes and coils around their respective ups and downs and inner demons. They meet one night at a bar, sharing an outside smoke. Lev’s lost wallet brings them back together a few days later. Though they try to stay together, their relationship ultimately falls apart, though I suppose in the end they are both better for having known each other. Facilitated by end of their relationship, both to wake up and decide to face and battle their demons head-on, instead of floating on in a lukewarm river of numbed misery.
Tomer Almagor brings out believable and nuanced performances out of his actors and Seimetz, Roberts, McGuire, and Logue show their characters’ paradoxes and subtleties deftly. Seimetz is very likable and relatable as Frankie, while Roberts embodies the strong, silent type with great charm.
Robert Murphy’s (In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Meet Joe Black) cinematography beautifully captures the intricate sets of 9 Full Moons, designed by Matthew Harvey (The Option ARM, Rolling Romance), and reminds me of faded photographs, afternoon sun streaming in through lace curtains, barroom smoke wafting it’s way up to a musician’s stage – all appropriate for the culture and the people in it.
9 Full Moons is more than brooding love story; it holds up a mirror to a sometimes hated, often revered, and nearly always misunderstood culture, and does so without judgement, but with aching love.
9 Full Moons Trailer:
Photos taken from:
Director: Tomer Almagor
Writer: Tomer Almagor
Cast – in credits order
Original Music: Ted Speaker
Cinematographer: Robert Murphy
Casting Director: Emily Schweber
Production Designer: Matthew Harvey
Costume Designer: Jane Moro