On now at the Tribeca Festival, Susan Omand invests some time in watching the short film The Foster Portfolio...
“Based on the original short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., The Foster Portfolio is an offbeat, mid-century tale about a rookie investment counsellor who discovers that his penniless client is hiding a million-dollar inheritance in order to conceal a strange, double life.”
Kurt Vonnegut Jr has one of “those” names for me as a 20th Century contemporary author – if you’ve read his most famous work, Slaughterhouse Five, you’ll know what I mean. Like Steinbeck or Kerouac, Chandler or Asimov, you know exactly what you’re going to get with Vonnegut’s writing in style and, often, in subject and you know it is going to be top quality. So it was the fact that this short film, The Foster Portfolio, was based on one of his short stories that immediately drew me to it.
And boy did the film makers do a good job with it! Sticking very close to the original story, almost word for word in several sections, I was immediately transported back to the early 1950’s and a postwar USA of hard working, god-fearing families, shabby pre-fabs and smoky gin-joints. It’s an era I enjoy getting my fiction, both written and visual, from as it lends itself so well to the seedier side of life where all the interesting stories hang out, so I was very pleased that they hadn’t tried to update the setting in any way but left it in the same period as the source material. And that includes the music. The composers, Nat Osborn & Corey Zorn, worked wonders with coming up with new music that sounds vintage and the sublime final piano solo, which I made a point to look for in the credits, was played superbly by the noted jazz pianist Jesse Gelber.
It’s testament too to the skills of the actors involved, especially Roe Hartrampf, who plays the investment counsellor Jim Crane, and Joel Nagle, who played Foster himself, that I went looking to see what they had done previously. They were so good in their roles and so familiar feeling that I felt I should know them from past lead roles of a similar nature, only to discover that they are not “big” names. At least, not yet. It won’t take much for someone with influence to see their work in a quality short like this and take a chance on them for something bigger.
And I need to mention the technical aspects of the film. The location scouting, prop and costume work and overall production values of the film are spot on and top quality and this is further enhanced by the beautiful cinematography of Michael Epple and the directorial skills of Danielle Katvan to bring Vonnegut’s words to vibrant life. With this highly enjoyable 20 minutes-ish film as the most recent example of Katvan’s short form work, a medium she seems to enjoy, I look forward to seeing what she could do in the future with the same team and a feature length story.
Image - Official Website