By Mike Collett-White
BERLIN (Reuters) - Cinema has a new odd couple in "Prince Avalanche", a low-budget film set in the remote, fire-ravaged forests of Texas and starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as an unlikely pair of workers painting markings on a seemingly endless road.
The tedium of their work allows space for them to argue, bicker, compete and bond in David Gordon Green's oddball remake of a 2011 Icelandic movie called "Either Way".
In competition at the Berlin film festival, where it premieres on Wednesday, "Prince Avalanche" has received mostly warm reviews, with the Hollywood Reporter calling it an "odd little gem of a movie".
Green, best known for stoner comedy "Pineapple Express", took an unusual approach to making the film: he decided to adapt an Icelandic picture even before he had seen it.
"I watched the film for the first time really with the intension of remaking it, which is really strange," he told reporters in Berlin.
He set the action in the late 1980s rather than today, because it allowed him to cut his characters off completely from an outside world with no Skype, mobile phones or iPads - generally a time when "things were more pleasant."
LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE
For Hirsch, there were parallels with his most famous role to date in Sean Penn's 2007 "Into the Wild" in which he plays Christopher McCandless, who turns his back on society and wanders into the Alaskan wilderness.
In "Prince Avalanche" his character Lance is just the opposite - a young drifter who hates being away from the buzz of the city and the company of his girlfriends.
"I love shooting in nature, that's for sure, but I think because I'm so identified with the part in 'Into the Wild' I like the idea of playing a character that didn't really like nature and hated to be alone from the beginning," he said.
"I certainly love nature and I love being in the wilderness, but I was raised in Sante Fe, New Mexico but also in Los Angeles, California."
Green rushed to shoot the movie, which took just 16 days to film, in order to capture the devastation caused by a 2011 wildfire at Bastrop State Park.
He kept his crew to a minimum - no more than 10 people on set at any time - and allowed the actors to improvise.
The barren landscape, which was quickly recovering its color and vitality, was captured by Green's regular director of photography Tim Orr.
Rudd, best known for comic roles and most recently starring in "This is 40", plays Alvin, the boyfriend of Lance's older sister who is introverted, serious and constantly seeking to better himself, including learning German using a language tape.
By contrast, Lance hates sleeping in tents, hunting for food and painting roads, and can't wait for the weekend when he can get back to civilization.
Gradually the two misfits begin to get along, helped by Alvin's personal crisis and a crate of hooch left by a mysterious old truck driver played by the late character actor Lance LeGault, to whom the movie is dedicated.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)