Michael Tully – Septien (2011)
Sydney Film Festival wrote:
If Ingmar Bergman had wandered into rural Tennessee and downed a few too many shots of moonshine he might have made something like this bizarre and compelling family drama. Mixing elements of Southern Gothic, sports drama, situation comedy and backwoods horror with biblical overtones, Septien takes us to the very strange farmhouse of the Rawlings brothers. Cornelius (played by writer-director Michael Tully), a Christlike figure and brilliant sportsman, has returned after an 18-year absence. Amos creates grotesque art in the barn, while Ezra dons a frock and does the housework. Then there’s Wilbur Cunningham, who lives in a tyre in the backyard. When a plumbing problem needs fixing the you-know-what really hits the fan. A disturbing, fascinating and darkly comic portrait of family ties, obsession and redemption, Tully’s movie is an American original that’s not to be missed.
This Tennessee-set Southern Gothic tale gets you thinking about Flannery O’Connor and Erskine Caldwell, what with its intensely felt religiosity and its gallery of sexually-bent grotesques. But there’s a sweetness and tenderness too in this story of Cornelius (Michael Tully), a Jesus lookalike who is actually a depressed, drugged-out ex-football star. He returns to his family farm after 18 years, uniting with one brother, Ezra (Robert Longstreet), who bakes cookies and yearns to wear a dress, and another, Amos (Onur Tukel), who compulsively draws pornographic images and worries if he’s a homosexual. What can be done with this unhappy home? Enter a self-appointed minister with messianic impulses. He arranges a magnificent exorcism, leading to a bright new morning. The title of the movie is inscrutable, and the actors are nobody you know. But director-writer-star Michael Tully has forged an original independent work of spirit and intelligence, perhaps the best American feature so far in 2011.
Gerald Peary, The Boston Herald. July 12, 2011
“Septien” proves the paths of “weird” and “interesting” do not always intersect. Second narrative feature for director Michael Tully, here also thesp and co-writer, is duly offbeat without ever being very compelling in content or aesthetic. Tale of some rural Tennessee men with beaucoup issues was selected as one of five “Direct From the Sundance Film Festival” features for online distribution, and that will likely peak its exposure.
A dilapidated former farmhouse is home to the Rawlings brothers, who no longer farm but pursue their own eccentric obsessions: Amos (actual artist Onur Tukel) paints primitive, violent and sexual pictures in the barn; nagging, cooking and fussing, Ezra (Robert Longstreet) plays matriarch in the kitchen. Not an actual relative, simple Wilbur (Jim Willingham) sleeps in a giant tire outside. Everyone is shocked when youngest sib Cornelius (Tully), once a star athlete, shows up sans explanation after 18 years’ absence. Eventually a preacher (John Maringouin) arrives to help everyone face their various repressive, mostly sexual hangups. But ambling progress mostly feels like a tepid in-joke, with Tukel’s art and some offbeat music the package’s only real plusses.
Dennis Harvey, Variety.com. Jan. 28, 2011