Color, 2012, 89m.
Directed by Dylan Reynolds
Starring Matthew James, Sadie Katz, Akihiro Kitamura, Dallas Malloy, Vanessa Rose
Cinema Epoch (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD2.0
Well, that's certainly a title, isn't it? In case you hadn't guessed, this indie art film/comedy takes place in Los Angeles, a city that's certainly brought out the seedy side of filmmakers for decades. The results are almost always idiosyncratic and built for cult approval, though of course that also means we could be talking about films by Henry Jaglom or, uh, The Room.
Somewhere between those two is this, a character study and stylistic exercise about Jackson (James, best known in makeup as Merl on TV's Angel), a perpetually stubbly aspiring painter who's first seen rolling up a joint beneath the ochre Venice Beach sunlight in his apartment while his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Harmony (Katz), discusses in voiceover the more intimate aspects of their relationship. Of course, we also get to see a little demonstration of that as they bang into walls and each other. However, Harmony's not one to stick around on a consistent basis, and while Jackson's holding down a middling day job and dealing with a chatty coworker (Kitamura), his randier side kicks in during off hours as he tangles with a colorful variety of women trying to scratch his itch.
More a string of sex-obsessed comic sequences than a traditional narrative, this film certainly nails the weird, colorful milieu of the L.A. beach scene, where dysfunction is a matter-of-fact way of life. How much you can take of Jackson's character will depend on your tolerance for indulgent painters with a proclivity for funky sex paintings, but there's no denying that James (who also wrote the screenplay) throws himself headfirst into the role. (One can only hope it's not too autobiographical.) Despite the title and the frequent sexual couplings, there isn't really a whole lot of skin on display; what is here is more arty and stylized that titillating, with a colorful sheen that manages to compensate for the obvious low-budget digital lensing. Of course, the main draw here for cult film fans is the presence of Kitamura, who's best known as the hugely unfortunate male third of The Human Centipede. Needless to say, he doesn't have to wear a diaper or scream invectives at mad scientists in this one, and it's even a little disconcerting seeing him do "normal" character comedy. If you're looking for a cross between cockeyed California quirkiness and a trashy wallow with the kind of folks you'd normally find hanging out at a beach side bar (but with a little more of an affecting love story than you'd probably expect), this is certainly one to pop on for a lazy afternoon.
Presumably shot on HD video, Nipples & Palm Trees looks pretty solid on standard DVD from Cinema Epoch, a company whose diversity apparently knows no bounds. Many scenes are shot with heavy gel lighting and look fine here, with deep reds, oranges, and blues completely suffusing several key sequences for several minutes at a time. The two-channel stereo soundtrack is modest but fine considering it's mainly dialogue and ambient background noise; the sole extras are a stills gallery and a trailer for the film's one-week theatrical run in L.A., where it no doubt felt like looking in a mirror for more than a few folks.