Catfish

Catfish

catfish

Wow – what can I say, I thought this was an amazing film documentary.   Nev Schulman, a hip New York photographer in his twenties, shares a loft with two filmmakers – his brother Ariel and their friend Henry Joost. They document dance events.

Abby an 8 year old girl, who like painting, contacts Nev via myspace to ask if she can paint one of his published ballet photos. He writes back to encourage her. She sends him the finished painting and a letter from herself and her mum. Nev start a correspondence  with Abby and her mother sends more paintings. They are pretty good for an eight year old so his friends begin to document the story.

Then Abbys older sister Megan contacts Nev. She is nineteen beautiful and a musician. She sends some songs. They start to chat online. Over nine months they become closer via  the net and phone and there’s an attraction between them. Nev falls for Megan and her family, but are they all they seem? The friends decide to take an impromptu road trip to their small town and find out.

SPOILERS!!! –

After watching for about ten minutes I pretty much guessed how things were going to pan out in terms of the ‘mystery’  and although the trailer and some scenes make this out as some kind of serial killer scenario it most definitely isn’t.

Though it’s obvious who the deceiver will turn out to be what is most amazing is her genuine likeable character and also how her real family is easily as interesting as the one she created on the internet.

The filmmakers by contrast seem to be more cynical and worldly. So much so that you start to question whether they have worked out the deception and are just exploiting this peach of a story that has fallen into their lap. Parts of the film feel staged and have lead to accusations that events have been recreated and altered or that the whole thing is a fake documentary.

Whether this is true or not it only adds more layers to what is a truly riveting tale about deception and fakery. There are so many levels and judgments woven into the story almost unconciously. Everyone manufactures their personality to some extent on line but – how much is real and how much is fake? When everyone’s faking to some extent -where is the moral centre? Which deception is worse – the one for profit or the emotional one? Why does society think it’s better to be a  young NY hipster artist than a small town painter and housewife? Is it acceptable to fake scenes in a documentary?

Loose Cannons

Loose Cannons

Loose Cannons

Loose cannons is an Italian comedy about Tommaso, a gay boy  from a rich conservative family in Southern Italy. Though he’s out in his Roman life his family don’t know he’s gay. He and his brother, are to be made head of the family pasta business at a special dinner.

Tommaso decides he will come out at the dinner. Before he can his older brother steps in revealing he is also gay, his father has a heart attack and disowns him. Tommaso is left minding the family business whilst his dad recovers. Should he come out to his family or not rock the boat? Things are complicated by him falling for an intriguing female colleague and the arrival of his sweet boyfriend and camp buddies from Rome.

The film didn’t really live up to my expectations. I thought it  would be more Almodovar in tone. Revelling in the comedy culture clash between the Roman gays and the rich conservative family but this doesn’t occur until act three. For most of the film Tommaso and his dad are in stasis and the middle starts to drag. To cure this the plot moves on to the mother, her sister and grandma – whose youthful affair we learn of in flashbacks.

The trouble is there are just too many different scenes off the main spine, and lots of ideas and characters feel slightly under-developed and unresolved.  The Grandma’s story seems the most separate. There’s a strong thematic connection between her life and Tommaso’s, but this could have been made stronger if she took him into her confidence more in the present.

Both Ilaria Occhini as Grandma and Riccardo Scamarcio as Tommaso give good performances but overall it feels like an ensemble film that’s not quite sure of it’s lead story, soft pedalling both the drama and the comedy.

Monsters

Monsters

I saw Monsters a couple of days ago. It’s a really great low budget film directed by Gareth Edwards. It was shot in Mexico and the southern US on video, on a shoe string. All the dialogue and action for each scene was improvised around a  plan. So it has the feel of a documentary, albeit one with occasional CGI aliens.

The film is set in the near future. A probe from Mars exploded over the border regions of Mexico the US dispelling alien spores, these grow into giant creatures. Now the region they inhabit has been annexed.

A  news photographer is charged by his boss to bring his daughter home. To get back the two must travel overland through ‘The Contaminated Zone’ round the border. They must navigate dangerous terrain and crossings with the help of the locals. All the while avoiding the rampaging aliens.

The film is an allegory about immigration and the treatment of Mexicans by their richer US neighbour. It has really good performances by the two leads and all the locals (non actors). Plus a great score and sound design that aids the feelings of unease.

As well as directing and editing, Gareth Edwards created all the visual effects himself on a home computer. The majority of them look spectacular, but their are one or two dodgy close ups, saved by evocative sound. All in all I think he’s done a pretty amazing job to create a stunning thoughtful lo/micro budget film that easily stands up to Hollywood blockbusters like District 9.

Chico and Rita

Chico and Rita

I went to see Chico and Rita last night. I thought it was a beautiful looking film, wIth great production design. The cars and backgrounds were particularly stunning. It had some lovely animation ( although a quite a few dodgy bits as well.) Best of all it had a brilliant Jazz and Cuban soundtrack with lots of great musical sequences.

Pre Revolution early 50’s Cuba. Chico is a talented piano player who spots Rita singing at a bar. They sleep together but fall out the next morning thanks to the arrival of Chico’s girlfriend.

A friend gets them a gig and they gradually become a succesful professional act. Rita is offered a contract in the states without Chico. After they row she decides to accept.

Later, poor and broke Chico follows her  but she has become a big solo star, married to her manager. Jealous of their relationship her husband gets Chico deported. Years later the two of them meet again, when their luck has changed.

As a film it hasn’t really stayed with me. I don’t think this is because the characters are immoral or unlikeable as one review suggested. I think they are very likeable, believable and realistic, which is an achievement for animation.

The problem is the star crossed lovers story. Despite the fact it spans decades of their lives it doesn’t develop Chico and Rita’s relationship. I think if they’d had been together as a couple dealing with the stresses and strains of life it would have been a stronger narrative. With such potentially rich characters I could see this working. But as it is, the boy-meets-girl-looses-girl plot repeated just doesn’t quite sustain it.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt1

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt1

harry_potter_and_the_deathly_hallows_part_1_poster_2

I saw this tonight. OF the movies, I feel like it was the best Harry Potter so far. This despite the fact that it doesn’t have an ending.

Voldermort’s power is growing. He takes control of the ministry of magic and Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and Hermione must go on the run and find a load of Horcruxes ( or was it Crackwhores?) the magical Macguffins they must destroy in order to kill Voldermort.

Mainly I think it’s better because of the structure. Unlike the other movies it doesn’t take place at Hogwarts and so can dispense with a lot of that Enid-Blyton-Jolly-hockey-sticks style plot and just go with a classic hero’s journey structure instead.

Also it focuses in on Ron, Hermione and Harry who are really what it’s all about and although there are still lots of extraneous characters, they are not allowed to hog(wart) the screen time from the leads. Who have all got much better as the movies have gone along and turn in really good performances.  Helped by a script that really focuses on the relationships between them. There’s also some great action set pieces and David Yates keeps it all moving with a sense of impending dread.

Some things don’t work so well. A few scenes came across like Lord of The Rings or King Arthur and I didn’t really give a shit about the death at the end. But overall it was really enjoyable.

Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives

Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives

I saw this yesterday also, after Robinson in ruins. A double bill of experimental art movies!

Uncle Boonmee is dying. He is visited by his sster in law and a nephew. They are staying at his home to help look after him. He shows them round his farm. Then one night at dinner his dead wife arrives as a ghost and his dead son arrives as a monkey-monster. They are benevolent and seem to be there to help ease him into the spirit world.

The film had some great moments. I particularly liked the visual representation of the visiting ghost-wife (double exposure floating in and out) and the monsters-son (black chewbaccas with red eyes). Also the beautiful sequence of stars inside the cave.

I fell asleep at some point during the middle and woke up about ten minutes later. In my semi-dream the dialogue was all in English and my brain began to interpret it to the nearest equivalent words. When I woke up and started reading the subtitles again it still made no more sense.

The main story had disappeared and there was a long unconnected vignette about a princess who meets a magical catfish by a waterfall and has sex with him in exchange for him making her young again ?!? Eventually it returned to the main story.

I haven’t clue what it was all about. On Imdb it say’s it’s about Boonmee recalling all his past lives, which I didn’t get at all! But it was an enjoyable film with a dream feel to it, full of beautiful images. It also had a slow meditative feel, reflective of this Buddhist strand of Thai culture.