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The Guatemalan Handshake2006

  • 3.5
One of the Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film, writer-director Todd Rohal charts strange new cinematic waters with his madly innovative feature debut, THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE. Winner of Special Jury Prizes at Slamdance and Torino, Rohal's vivacious feast for the senses "bristles with his anarchic visual language, offbeat humor, ephemeral sense of narrative, circuitous character sketches, and freewheeling sense of mirth" (according to the Baltimore City Paper). In the confusion following a massive power outage in small-town America, human doormat Donald Turnupseed (actor/musician Will Oldham) suddenly vanishes, setting in motion a surreal series of events affecting his hapless father, his pregnant girlfriend, a pack of wild boy scouts, a lactose-intolerant roller rink employee, an elderly woman in search of her lost poodle and his best friend: a ten-year-old girl named Turkeylegs. Narrated by young Turkeylegs as she pieces together Donald's puzzling disappearance, Rohal's rural tapestry explodes in unforgettable widescreen surprises: a women attends her own funeral, a childhood television legend leaps from a cliff, the sun rises sideways and a bright orange, wedge-shaped electric car changes hands again and again. Chaotically absurd with an underlying poignancy, these droll vignettes come crashing together in a climactic demolition derby that marks the exhilarating debut of an adventurous storyteller.

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"...marvelous mysteries, quirky connections and cockeyed running gags that Rohal effortlessly weaves into the design of [this] crazy-quilt comedy." - Sean Axmaker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Member Reviews (6)

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top reviewer

Lost on a highway somewhere between Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble" and David Gordon Green's "George Washington," Todd Rohal's debut film is a groggy, idiosyncratic look at a community after one of its own goes missing. An oddball slice-of-life with a sugary glaze of weird, "The Guatemalan Handshake" is an interesting exercise in mood - think Todd Solondz without the storm clouds.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

3.5+ mostly silly & funny sometimes just dumb_i love Sadie & her sister (i think) & the dead dog_some of it is super creative & bright_some of it is just lame_but it's a fun trip

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top reviewer

A delightful , entertaining,engaging comedy fugue. It just keeps movin' and groovin''A great Fandor find.

Todd Rohal's eccentric comedy has aged beautifully. I liked it when it came out, but I enjoyed it more close to a decade later. While the humor is most certainly evolved from surrealism and sadness, Rohal somehow makes it all feel sweet. Following this odd characters leads the audience to roller derbies, boy scout mishaps and eccentric ideas of familial love. None of the storylines are ever fully resolved but that is not the point. An older woman finds herself in crisis as her missing dog leads her to the realization that she is lonely. She doesn't find her dog, but she does discover her obituary in the local paper. Instead of reporting the mistake, she attends her own funeral. This is an absurd film but it never loses touch with humanity and the ways in which we find comfort.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. Interesting soundtrack.

enigmatic, ugly america raises its head and whimpers, scrambles time and smells funny.