Runs at Grand Illusion, Fri., Feb. 8–Thurs., Feb. 14. Not rated. 93 minutes.
The first feature by the conceptual Polish artist Piotr Uklanski, Summer Love is a mock spaghetti Western that manages to be both parody and homage, albeit less Western than spaghetti. Beginning with its vertiginous opening shoot-out, Summer Love is characterized by some credibly mad filmmaking. Uklanski is adept at playing the angles, both in terms of camera placement and genre derangement. (His cast speaks heavily accented English and looks subtly off—too beaten-down to be real cowboys.) The Stranger (Karel Roden) rides into town with the corpse of the Wanted Man (Val Kilmer!) and gambles away his bounty before he can even collect it. Most of the action is confined to a miserable one-room saloon amusingly named the French Palace—a place of buzzing flies and perpetual rain, where grizzled plug-uglies mumble into their vodka and make leering passes at the tough, ample barmaid (Katarzyna Figura). Space is elastic, with exterior locations cleverly constructed out of an abandoned quarry and what appears to be a stretch of Baltic beach doubling as the desert. The Western trappings become increasingly alien as the movie evolves, spasm by spasm, into a ritual played out around and about Kilmer's increasingly mutilated body—the drama's written in blood, sweat, and tears, among other bodily secretions, on the faux desert sands.