THE FILM’S OF MICHAEL DRISCOLL DELIVER A FEAST FOR THE EYES AND THE MIND
Michael Driscoll likes intimate stories that are portrayed on a grand scale. In spite of the implied dichotomy here, the work of this writer/director displays these ideals perfectly. He is equally at ease in Prague or in the American desert…at least artistically comfortable. While the relationships of the characters in his films are compelling, it’s not lost on him that the audience appreciates an interesting setting captured with skill. His work on the acclaimed Canal+ series Borgia found him using his directing skills in the Czech Republic, Italy, Croatia, and other such exotic locations. The experience increased his resolve to create equally stunning visuals in his own films to match the storylines. The cast which he has conscripted for films such as Two Black Coffees and The Perfect Orchid are equally impressive including names such as John Doman (The Wire, Mystic River, Gotham), Matt Di Angelo (Ordinary Lies, Hustle, Eastenders), Marta Gastini (The Rit’, Dracula 3’, ‘Borgia), and others. Michael’s films exhibit the work of a filmmaker who is tenaciously driven to create stories that have an expansive aesthetic while the very DNA of their plot is to question human nature.
Shot in Prague, Two Black Coffees is a love-triangle/thriller between a young desperate woman with a clearly abusive husband and her heroic lover, keen to lead her out of her painful relationship. The woman and the lover come up with a cunning plan to deceive the husband, who unfortunately already has suspicions of his damsel’s intentions. The story takes twists and turns for an intense ride of suspense and mystery. It’s a story filled with flawed characters who put their own desires before anything else: a metaphor for cause and effect in the most devastating way.
The romanticism of Prague lends itself well as a backdrop to this story. The uncertainty of old transgressions and suspicions seems to lurk in the alleys and cafés of the film. The architecture immediately conveys to the audience they are somewhere that has many untold stories. Driscoll’s decision to present this in a Film Noir style only serves to heighten the mood of the story (a number of modern filmmakers have begun to embrace black and white film again including big budget versions of releases like Logan: Noir and Mad Max: Fury Road in Black and Chrome). While the cast (John Doman, Marta Gastini, Art Malik, and Stanley Weber) and production crew of Two Black Coffees was kept purposely small, this belies the look of the film. The film’s writer/director explains, “On a small production you have a bit more artistic license to try new or experimental things here and there. When you’re on a bigger production, the machine is already turning so to speak. I’ve worked on shows like Borgia and Transporter; if we needed a certain piece of equipment or needed more in the budget for an extra location here or there, it was arranged and was all done behind the scenes, so I could concentrate on what I needed to do. On a smaller production, that is definitely much harder to achieve, but there’s something to be said for the struggle…the act that forces you to deliver and makes you think in a different way to solve a problem. There’s also a bigger element of control on a smaller job; it’s easier to get your point or need across without having to jump through so many hoops. I have to admit that if you need to change a major thing on the day of a smaller shoot, it’s nice to have to not worry about what the execs might say!”
Michael’s most recent film, The Perfect Orchid, is a neo-noir western, set ten years in the future. Shot in Joshua Tree on super 16MM, it focusses on the opioid crisis in America. The blending of society’s current problems set in the near future with the traditional sense a Western implies was an intriguing concoction for the filmmaker. Driscoll admits that he’s always wanted to make a Western, and setting the action in the near future allowed him to bridge a gap between concrete reality while avoiding the sometimes distracting elements of Sci-Fi productions. Set in the late 2020’s, the opioid crisis has put America into chaos. Government funding has been cut, causing the hospitals to be overrun and addicts becoming more desperate. Deep in the Californian desert, in Joshua Tree where many have hailed the region’s apparent spiritual vortex, sanctuaries have been established to care for those who need it. These sanctuaries have developed their own small communities, entirely cut off from the outside world, with no internet, no TV, and no toxins of any kind. A zero tolerance policy towards alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, even caffeine or sugar exists in these communities. At the Orchid Sanctuary, a rundown converted ranch in the middle of nowhere, a young detective is brought in to investigate the mysterious death of one of the patients. As he learns more of the environment, he inadvertently causes a disturbance in the community. As the plot evolves, we obtain a premonition of where current events may take us.
The surroundings of the California dessert is a stark contrast to the ancient structures of Europe seen in Two Black Coffees. To capitalize on the natural beauty and simultaneous implication of desperation, Michael chose to film with super 16MM. A highly uncommon decision in today’s film industry, the decision required a great deal of planning and concentration in rehearsals as he wouldn’t have the unlimited takes that digital offers. The use of actual film was an artistic and emotional choice as Driscoll states, “It was an aesthetic choice. When I saw the location, I knew we had to shoot on film. I wanted it to look like an old western, and make it bleaker, dystopian, and almost post-apocalyptic. The script needed to also have a contrast of a clean, healthy community in this sanctuary or haven-style setting. I went to a Kodak seminar at the Hollyshorts festival last year, and watched a bunch of filmmakers talk about their experiences shooting on film. It sounded awesome. It really perked my interest. After I had written this script and worked on the visuals for the pitch deck, I thought the timing was right to go for film.”
Michael Driscoll seems to always create different types of films. His style is not one that you can categorize as action, comedy, or horror, but rather in terms of how these films make you feel. Two Black Coffees and The Perfect Orchid are productions that cause you to question yourself, and internalize what you are witnessing on screen. The surroundings, the characters, they are simply the means to get you to this place. Driscoll is happy to have you questioning the intention of those you see in the film and at times questioning yourself, and if you’re riveted at the same time…all the better. Two Black Coffees is currently making rounds on the film festival circuit and The Perfect Orchid will be released later this year.