In watching the Lost Bayou Ramblers rockumentary On Va Continuer!, I was struck by the effort it took to visit various communities out in the Acadiana bayous. We’re taken on a tour by boat – dropped into the water most carefully by pickup truck – down basins and waterways, into towns and homes deep in Cajun country. The environment is sweaty, muggy, muddy, and romantic. This far away from well-populated cities, one could get lost in the scenery, the atmosphere, the culture, and the self we hide from others.
Continuing to contribute music towards expressing the aura of the land and its people, The Lost Bayou Ramblers scored the music for festival favorite Lost Bayou (I can only assume the title was a coincidence). There was an exhausted hesitancy on my part before viewing this film, having been inundated with deep gulf south cinema for years on end and only finding a few that I would call grand or unique. For all of the wonderful vistas to be captured and the tales to be told, only a handful within this regional genre grasp at something soulful and resonant – the others reach with nothing but a stick. The harshness of my honesty notwithstanding, I press on in re-discovering what I love about my family heritage and learning about the person I could’ve been through the ghostly visage of the surprising Lost Bayou.
For roughly 3/4ths of the movie, the sky is grey and the lead characters – an addict daughter and a grieving father – showcase their collective misery and pain through the weight pooled under the eyes and the trauma held tightly around the heart. Both are deadbeat parents, self-medicating in the only ways they know: drugs for the daughter, faith and maybe delusion for the father. She comes to check in on her dad, living in exile on a houseboat, with only belief in a higher power to get him through his remaining days.
The driving performance force of Lost Bayou belongs to Dane Rhodes, who never relents in Cajun accent delivery or in presenting a man burdened with a gift hosted within emotional vulnerability. For all of the folksy advice he gives – not to mention a moment where be breaks up attempted abuse with a gunshot and some excellent eye-rolling pun dropping – Rhodes’ man on the water is too busy, too stoic, and too sad to heed on his own. Thus, he gives control over to something unexplainable but powerful all the same.
The use of light through the cypress trees and reflecting off the water is staggering and stunning. Lensed by Natalie Kingston (who won at the New Orleans Film Festival this year for her cinematography), Lost Bayou shows the beauty and the boils – both somehow equally haunting and soothing – of this region in a bold scope, one that overloads the senses with rapturous joy.
There are story details that I confused with convolution and shots I kinda wished had been more than false endings, but in giving Lost Bayou the benefit, I opened the gates up to be taken by scenes of mysterious and true revelatory communion. Maybe it was the music. Maybe the nature. Maybe the overwhelmed dynamic of loss and healing. This film attaches itself to something indescribably pure, and that goes a long way.
Keep them coming, local filmmakers!
RATING: 4 / 5
Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews