Eugene Weekly : Movies : 6.17.10


A Journey to Paradise
Henry Weintraub steps out
by Molly Templeton

Patrick O’Driscoll in The Darkest Corner of Paradise

There are no zombies in Henry Weintraub’s new film. No murderous and deformed backwoods killlers. No creative deaths that’ll inspire letters to the editor complaining that we promote such “bottom-dwelling garbage” (oh, wait: wrong paper). That’s not to say there isn’t violence, or that lives aren’t changed after a strange event. But The Darkest Corner of Paradise is Weintraub’s first dramatic feature, and it’s a self-assured change of pace for the Eugene director.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of drama and action, maybe even more than horror. I grew up watching Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin and William Holden movies A LOT,” Weintraub said in an email. “I guess I feel as though I’ve finally progressed far enough as a filmmaker where I can try my hand at drama.”

Weintraub is honest about the charms of horror movies; he enjoys making them “because they’re fun but mainly because they’re easy to make. People are more forgiving of mistakes in horror/comedy movies; sometimes it even adds to the humor/camp value.”

With Darkest Corner, Weintraub isn’t going for camp. The film follows recent college graduate Peter Landsman (Patrick O’Driscoll) as he moves to the big, shiny city, where kids skip across summery streets. Peter, with his pale face and paler clothes, blends right in. He’s the kind of person who waters a half-dead motel plant, and he gamely cold-calls banks in search of a good job. What he finds is a job in an ice rink. What finds him, when a bleeding young woman stumbles into his apartment, is something else entirely. 

Peter isn’t the first nice, unassuming guy to make his way into a city’s seedy underworld and find himself irrevocably changed, but Weintraub isn’t trying to break the mold — except, maybe, for himself. Darkest Corner is a confident, noir-ish piece that establishes him as a versatile filmmaker. There’s a muted elegance and a quiet efficiency to the film; a long montage as Peter settles in to his new life is particularly effective. (The score, composed by Sawyer Family bassist Zak Sawyer on a double bass, is eerie and resonant and unforgettable.)

The film’s tight budget — Weintraub said he shot the film for “well under $1,000” — rarely shows. Darkest Corner was shot in black and white, which Weintraub said he likes because “it somehow seems to take your focus away from distracting colors and lets you focus more on the action.” 

Though Weintraub has a handful of regulars who appear in and work on his films, he’s branched out this time, casting actors from Eugene’s theater scene, including John Schmor, Kato Buss and Richard Leebrick. “I think we got some of the most talented actors in Eugene who really helped bring the movie to life,” Weintraub said.

The Darkest Corner of Paradise is both a step in a new direction and clearly a Henry Weintraub film: the style and feel are different, but the themes are somewhat familiar. “I really like the revenge thing,” he said. “It’s definitely one of my favorite genres. Except in this movie the revenge has a lot less meaning than in other films. In this movie the actions against Peter hardly matter as much as how they give him a purpose in his life. … The story is about Peter and his journey.”

The Darkest Corner of Paradise premieres at 9 pm Saturday, June 19, at the Bijou.