Posted on Monday, June 21st, 2010 by Russ Fischer
One of my favorite shorts in the past few years is Sean Dunne‘s The Archive, about Paul Mawhinney, the man who amassed the world’s largest collection of vinyl records. Now Dunne is back with a slightly longer, equally good character portrait: The Bowler, which documents the life of bowling hustler Rocky Salemmo.
Here’s Dunne’s recap of the film:
Meet Rocky Salemmo. He’s a ramblin’ gamblin’ man. For the majority of his adult life Rocky has hustled bowling for a living. Here is his story. A short documentary about booze, broads and bowling.
I love this story — in less than fifteen minutes you’ll get a great idea of who Salemmo is and how he lives his life. At first I thought he was nervous in front of the camera, but quickly understood that he’s a bundle of raw nerves and energy. (Midway through he makes the amazing understatment, “I’m hyper!” by way of explaining why he doesn’t do coke.) This is really just him: motormouth, self-aggrandizing, tripping over himself.
Given that personality I’d love to see his bowling hustle in action. Would probably be a miraculous thing to watch: twitchy off the lane, and utterly collected when he steps to the line.
Part of my love for The Archive stems from Sean Dunne’s skills as a documentarian, and his work here is just as strong. (Director of photography Hillary Spera and editor Kathy Gatto deserve much credit, as well.) There are a very few places where you won’t be able to avoid thinking of The Big Lebowski, but I don’t know how anyone can shoot a bowling movie now and not visually refer to that film, at least unconsciously. But those notes don’t dominate. Dunne lets Salemmo take the reins of the film, and his personality is what you’ll remember.
I hope that the guys Salemmo likes to hustle don’t end up seeing this film, but I wonder how many of his potential marks are spending a lot of time watching short docs on the internet. And the ones who do see it will probably still want to try to beat him anyway.