Directed by Parker Smith
In the wake of a devastating personal tragedy, struggling would-be filmmaker Parker Smith decides to take a road-trip across America. Intending to make a "lo-fi" documentary about his journey he purchases a decade old camera off of eBay, and is surprised to discover that it holds a long forgotten video tape containing strange home video footage of the notorious bodybuilder Gregg Valentino, a/k/a 'The Man Whose Arms Exploded'. Convinced that Valentino’s odd tape found its way into his hands for some important existential reason, Parker sets off from Austin, Texas to New York to find the fading bodybuilder armed with only his beloved cat, two cameras and a minivan.
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★★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
★★★★ review by William Lindus on Letterboxd
Sometimes, you go to a film festival and you end up checking out a film not because you are excited about it, but because it happens to be playing at a venue before/after a more desired film. RAMBLIN FREAK fell into that category for me, with a description in the festival guide that did not sound interesting at all.
I was wrong. RAMBLIN FREAK is one of the better films to play at SXSW 2017, and easily the film that gave me the most tears.
The film follows Parker Smith, a film student and documentarian who buys an inexpensive camera from the internet. In the camera, he finds a tape created by a professional bodybuilder from New Jersey. Smith, dealing with a personal crisis, decides to embark on a roadtrip to return the tape and to document his journey.
RAMBLIN FREAK is very lo-fi, but don't let that turn you off. It is incredibly edited and has an unexpected amount of heart. The reveals in this film need to be seen, so try to read as little about this film as possible before watching it.
★★★★½ review by seanmalin on Letterboxd
SXSW Film Review for the Austin Chronicle:
This one sneaks up on you like you'd never know. Pretty special. Late Akerman influence is heavy. The kid making the film could be amazing.
★★★★★ review by Graham Young on Letterboxd
The best American road movie since The Brown Bunny. I loved it!
★★★★½ review by Tyler Therien on Letterboxd
At first I hated Parker Smith for this journey. It evoked so many visceral feelings of despair and ultimately, you learn a grim truth. You meet some interesting people on his journey - the protagonist is still and frayed, spending much of his alone time with his cat (who is sometimes leashed) - but in all of the wandering you learn somewhat about his sisters. Sammy and Katherine. They are angels.
With time I could see that this story was made from a place of filling a void and confusion, and it can feel provocative with some of its imagery, but at the end of the day this is an expression of how Parker Smith feels. I don't know if he was looking for redemption with this, but he hasn't found it. However, way that his story is told, how it unfolds, and what he experiences are an indication of a lot of growth.
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