I never realized I held stock in a culture, or more specifically a racial culture, until a few months ago while listening to an episode of WTF with Marc Maron. African-American comedian Hannibal Buress was the guest, and in the typical drugstore psychology interrogation the narcissist has scraped a career out of in the past few years, Maron asked Buress his thoughts on the swelling ranks of white guys in Pro Keds comprising his fan base. Buress responded he was of course grateful for the fans, but that he noticed one trend amongst the Salt Valley set: they themselves don’t identify as a cultural group. Guys like this (me) wrenched their legs out of small towns, moved to cities, and forswore setting foot in Pac Sun or admitting they don’t subscribe to McSweeney’s. There’s not a small amount of pride in the (false) thought of being without community or cultural umbrella, but like pond scum collecting over Walden, we’re pressed together, and this is our lot.
Based off the Icelandic movie Either Way, Prince Avalanche is, in no uncertain terms, sad ‘white guy’ film fodder that helps define the group Buress was talking about. I’m not trying to be culturally or racially exclusive, but look at the film in the most reductive way possible: two guys hanging out in the wilderness around Bastrop (an hour from Austin), doing roadwork, and waxing heavy on girls, purpose, and, you know, life and stuff, for an hour and a half. The ‘white dude’ tropes are all front and center, reading off like Weekend Update Stefon talking about a new club: a wily old man showing up with booze intermittently, longshot frames of charred trees and Emile Hirsch brooding, Paul Rudd’s mustache, an Explosions in the Sky soundtrack. Explosions in the Sky is our Celine Dion.
The plot sees Alvin (Rudd), a pragmatic loner with anxiety issues and a girlfriend, and Lance (Hirsch), a wayward young buck and younger brother of Alvin’s girlfriend, repainting traffic lines on burnt tarmac in central Texas after a sprawling wildfire in 1988. Even the era is significant, a fine vintage for white dudes of a certain age and income, all gold watches and muscle shirts. Nothing moves quickly and nothing is intended to move quickly: Prince Avalanche tilts slow on the bottle and watches Alvin and Lance parse through their place in life wandering down roads you can’t see the end of. The metaphors are pretty thick (still not as thick as Rudd’s mustache), and the tone is so clearly intended as introspective-yet-quirky I kind of expected Justin Vernon to show up at some point.
I want to tell you the experience was conceited, and objectively, I can tell you that. But at some point, the post-rock swells and existential hand-wringing were too much for my empirical sensibilities. I caved in. I let myself roll around in the pure kitsch, and now I feel like I should go buy a tote bag.