Prodigal Son, Back on the Farm, in Septien


Never the same movie for five minutes straight, Septien can’t sit still. This is a virtue about as often as it seems like faking a seizure for attention. Writer-director Michael Tully plays Cornelius, an ex–star jock and the youngest of the three Rawlings brothers, who prodigal-returns to the family farm one day after 18 years of unexplained absence. Cornelius is remote and sullen, earning money as an all-sports hustler, then splurging on malt liquor to chug and spew up in his shrub of a beard. And he’s the most restrained of the Rawlings in his neurosis—gentle eldest Ezra (Robert Longstreet) is a swishy neat-freak; Amos (Onur Tukel) is a painter whose art brut canvases use boners as their primary motif. In a resolution that’s a CBN parody of transcendence, these emotionally constipated men are flushed out by an itinerant preacher (John Maringouin) who arrives to exorcise the homestead, saying “the Lord wants us to discombobulate” the Rawlings’ enemies. And Tully wants to discombobulate the viewer—oscillating wildly, the movie hits on corncobby regionalism, outsider-art facsimile, self-satisfied weirdness, and an evocation of male squalor that is sometimes quite vivid. At various times, Tully shoots himself to resemble the Unabomber, Björn Borg, or Christ. None of these associations seem to mean more or less than another.