If James Bell had started making movies 30 years ago, his handful of absurdly unique home grown extended shorts would likely be the stuff of legend among video collectors, similar to Carl Sukenick's early work.
But because in 2014, when Bell's first production, Dogdick, was released, anyone with a digital camera and a back yard could call themself a 'filmmaker,' his work hasn't yet garnered the following it so strongly deserves.
Nutsack Pt 1: Lucifer's Cosmonauts, the fourth and most recent title in Bell's swiftly growing filmography, is both his most technically complex and narratively developed of his work, but like any growing artist (and I use that word in the sincerest manner), the progression of his craft has truly been remarkable to witness.
His debut, Dogdick, which evoked a less pretentious take on Julien Donkey Boy, but is instead a more or less free-form mostly documentary of sorts about white trash living in Michigan. Through minimal staging, Bell created a dystopian universe run by slurring alcoholics, trailer trash, and middle aged power scooter users.
His second project, Manuer, an almost farcical fantasy/horror about a homeless man whose shit turns into flowers, was his first venture into narrative storytelling and although technically not as confident as his subsequent productions, still remains a personal favorite. It's funny, weird, and delightfully gross. It also solidified Bell's obsession with dirtiness. Whether in the form of dirty people, dirty places, or dirty things, Bell's movies wallow in filth. They feel slimy and crusty at the same time. You get the impression that the places where he shoots tend to have an odd and vaguely unpleasant odor.
Although in the context of streaming, this cannot be experienced, Bell hammers home his obsession with trash in his incredible hand made DVD cases, which he decorates with scraps of cloth, other debris, and what appears to be hardened slime. Seeing and touching the boxes in which his movies come allows the viewer extra conditioning to anticipate the mood with which his movies are made.
His most recent two, Tantrum and Nutsack, are both Lynchian (Eraserhead days) experiments in overt surrealism, as filtered through the Jorg Buttgereit school of gore effects. Eschewing the narrative conventions of Manure for more a free form approach, where who does what to whom, where, and why, really don't matter.
This seems to be where Bell feels most at home. The almost stream of consciousness nightmarish qualities of Tantrum and the grittier and at times documentary-esque vibe of Nutsack come off as far more personal, even if they don't offer up a clear message.
But with all of my pretentious ramblings aside, the reason you should watch James Bell's movies is because unlike so many contemporary backyard filmmakers who are striving to be taken seriously as creators of thoughtful and valuable 'art,' Bell seems to make his strange and engrossing productions simply because he loves doing it, without pretense and ego, and perhaps consequently, the work itself stands head and shoulders above its contemporaries.