The state of the world a film drops into can often change the ways in which it resonates. The claustrophobic anxiety and viral threat of Sea Fever, for example, felt timely as all hell when it dropped back in early April. It’s likely the same will happen for Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a documentary about the sloppy and wistful final night of a beloved dive bar. Yes, the world is technically reopening, but the threat of COVID-19 is still keeping many from relaxing into their local watering holes as they once did.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets presents itself as a chronicle of a Las Vegas dive called Roaring ’20s, with its abundance of regulars getting riled and teary in the face of its closure. But there’s a twist (of sorts) to Bill and Turner Ross’ movie: The bar isn’t real, and the movie was shot in New Orleans with locals who were brought in to play variations of themselves. That might sound disingenuous, but it ends up making for an infinitely more fascinating film.
In fact, it was one of our favorite films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, with our own A.A. Dowd summing up its appeal thusly:
[A]lmost all documentarians bend the truth they purport to capture, in ways both big and small. Set aside the manufactured circumstances of the shoot, and Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets achieves a vérité verisimilitude that’s very much in the Frederick Wiseman tradition; the drunker these genuine barflies get, the more they reveal themselves, even within an “artificial” setup. It’s funny and sad and also much more “real” than plenty of documentaries that play by the rules—a perfect encapsulation of Werner Herzog’s principle of “ecstatic truth,” the kind that can only be unearthed when you’re willing to look past the raw facts.
Watch a trailer for it below.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets will premiere virtually on July 8 in honor of National Dive Bar Day. Pre-order your stream here to benefit the US Bar Guild Foundation’s Bartender Emergency Assistance Program COVID-19 Relief Fund. According to Indiewire, the film will roll into virtual cinemas like Film at Lincoln Center and Alamo Drafthouse on July 10.