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September 01, 2001

Filtering Soviet propaganda through a mouthful of powerful East Texas psychedelics, the unblinkingly straight-faced FRONTIER ostensibly adapts a “literary masterpiece” from the nation of “Bulbovia,” dutifully capturing the Bulbovian people’s rituals of frontier building, national conquest, accordion-based folk songs and raw-chicken duels. Strangers in a strange land, Bulbovia’s dimmest explorers (David Zellner and Wiley Wiggins) attempt to dutifully colonize a new world but soon find their buttoned-up shirts and rational thoughts melting away into beetle-eating, tree-molesting, wife-swapping chaos. Like a Guy Maddin remake of AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD or STALKER’s metaphysical “zone” as day-dreamed by some drunken Austin-ite, FRONTIER takes classic art-film tropes and obsessively builds its strange own zero-budgeted world out of them. Shot entirely in “Bulbovian,” it also awakened its star Wiley Wiggins to his heritage. “During the shoot,” David Zellner later claimed in an interview, “Wiley found out he was one-quarter Bulbovian.” - Jason Sanders