By Destynee Norwood August 11th, 2013
Tim Sutton’s directorial debut, Pavilion, is a lushly poetic meditation on the seldom documented ennui felt by teenagers entrapped by their youth. The film follows a boy named Max (Max Schnaffner) who moves from upstate New York, leaving behind pals and the girl he likes and his mother, to suburban Arizona where he lives with his dad in a hotel and makes new friends, nearly indistinguishable from his old ones. Amidst this sparse plot, Pavilion is about teenagers hanging out with each other, filling their honey-slow summer days with bike-riding, skateboarding, swimming, and fireworks-lighting, their bodies always moving in synchronicity. Max disappears in the final 15 minutes and Cody (Cody Hamric), the main friend Max makes in Arizona, becomes Pavilion’s focal point, a transition that is explained when Cody says that Max has moved to another neighborhood. This slight shift in perspective feels natural because Pavilion’s focus is not on a singular character but on the fluidity of friendships that is so mysteriously specific to youth. The hypnotic vignettes are filled with subdued urgency and wild peace.
While garnering well-deserved comparisons to the films of Gus Van Sant, Pedro Costa, and Terrence Malick, Pavilion reminds me more clearly of Tristan Patterson's Dragonslayer, a documentary about skateboarder Josh Sandoval. Both Pavilion and Dragonslayer create a space rarely found in cinema where its subjects are free to do as they’d like without their actions being interpreted for the audience as necessarily “good” or “bad” through filmmakers’ caveats. Instead Sutton and Patterson allow for a grey area which, in turn, lets their viewers gauge for themselves what something means and, moreover, leads these films to possess truly complex characters.
Unlike Dragonslayer, Pavilion is a fiction film, but traditional structure is challenged by Sutton in select moments when the dreamy lull is disturbed. In one scene, a voice giving the teenagers suggestions for screen direction is just barely heard. In another, Cody asks someone off-screen if he's going to be in the movie; the same voice answers affirmatively. These breaks of the fourth wall imply the way these kids fill their time when they aren’t being filmed. Beautiful cinematography by Chris Dapkins + ethereal soundtrack featuring Sam Prekop of The Sea and Cake. Pavilion is available on iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu, and as a physical release through Factory 25. Trailer is embedded below...