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Archive for January 18th, 2007

This Spanish language film (not sure exactly where it’s from right now, and I’m too tired to care) has made the rounds on the festival circuit over the past year.  I finally saw it in a theatrical release print tonight.

This is a difficult film to review.

The film is pretty much flawlessly constructed.  An ultra slow-motion take on the film noir ‘everyman detective’ concept, combined with the traditional heist movie, this film nails everything that it appears to be trying to do.  The acting is top notch all the way (especially impressive is the nameless lead character portrayed by Ricardo Darin, who reminded me a great deal of Shintaro Katsu from the old Zatoichi films), the photography is nice (from tight, spinning close-ups to wide shots of the forest, and even a Hitchcock inspired overhead shot near the end), the structure seems well done (directions of motion – left, in, out, right – all seeming tied to specific situations; a nice four shot traveling montage in which the Darin is seen in exactly the same screen position in a hotel, an airport lobby, a plane, and a moving car; etc.).  The plot reveal is slow and meticulously handled, with little being telegraphed.

It was an engrossing and enjoyable little piece, despite having pacing slow enough to turn off many viewers.

But, if the film was truly excellent at all it tried to do, then I’m not really sure that the film was trying to do enough.

With a central character who ‘remembers everything he sees’ who is engaged in trying to decipher clues in a mystery, the film could’ve been a pleasant mental game to see if the audience can remember as much as Darin’s character; and if they can see where he makes errors in judgment or where he takes a little too much time to work something out.  But the film doesn’t really seem to be doing that; many of the ‘clues’ are seen only in random pans and cuts around rooms, and the moment at which Darin lays the whole thing out for us as he sees it, there are many bits of imagery which I didn’t recall ever having seen before that moment.  So, on a first viewing, I don’t think it works as a spectatorial challenge.

It also doesn’t seem to have any particularly deep meaning, or be saying anything particularly worthwhile about the human condition.  There are interesting parallels – one example, Darin is a taxidermist with pretensions to a criminal mastermind, and he blunders into a heist in the forest with a live dog as part of the plot – but the overall thrust of the story is simply the attempt to pull off what one feels capable of doing, and the unexpected difficulties in the task.  The resolution of the plot isn’t particularly satisfying as anything other than a ‘boy that was harder than I expected’ feeling.

Among the other plot contrivances which also feel more random than meaningful: Darin suffers from epilepsy, which really seems to be a deus ex machina more than anything else, even though the title of the film is a reference to his seizures…; wife-beaters are all around, but there’s no particular judgment placed on them, they are just distasteful; women who vacate the premises leave letters in envelopes and we are never shown their words; etc…

Try as I might, I just can’t quite figure out what I’m supposed to be taking from this film.  It doesn’t seem to ‘mean’ anything.

Maybe that’s the point.  Perhaps I’m not supposed to be taking anything that much from it.  Perhaps it’s just a resolutely slow piece of ‘mystery’ entertainment.  Perhaps it’s just a mild commentary on film noir.  Maybe I’m just missing the point because I’m not on the same wavelength.  I don’t know.

I enjoyed it.  It was a nice little film.  But it’s not often that I run across a film that I honestly feel like I got nothing from other than a couple of hours worth of entertainment.  But, to paraphrase a quote I read from a Mystery Science Theater alum at some point, “it filled the time, and maybe, just maybe, that’s enough.”

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1. Tonight’s episode of mythbusters had one of the most conceptually interesting myths they’ve tackled in a long time: the idea that pirates wore eyepatches not for blindness, but to keep one eye constantly ready for night vision just in case one had to survive in sudden darkness.  While I can’t for the life of me figure out how pitch blackness could sneak up on a pirate, it’s very interesting to know that it actually works.

2. I was a bit nervous about my “Godard and Barthes” class this semester, but now that I’ve seen the book list I’m actually looking forward to it.  Back when it was a nebulous concept involving two intellectuals it was just abstractly terrifying.  Now that I actually own (or will soon own) seven different books by Roland Barthes it actually seems exciting.  I’ve never engaged with a single thinker so completely.  It’ll be interesting to come out of this class with a reasonably complete knowledge of a particular thinker who I previously had had no experience with.

3. The last couple days have been the coldest days in Atlanta since I arrived.  There was even a chance of an ‘ice storm’ tonight.  Turns out that I only really miss cold weather because of snow.  This cold wind nonsense can go right to hell…

4. Still don’t know if I have the job or not yet.  It’s really starting to annoy me.  I should have had an answer to this a month ago.

5. I therefore still don’t know if I’m going to make it to my brother’s wedding in May.  There’s no way I can afford a $1000 trip to California if I don’t have a job.  No way at all.

6. In other financial news, I think they double charged me for health insurance this year.  But I’m not actually certain yet.  I have access to three different pieces of information regarding my student loans and what I was billed for the semester (my paper bill, my online bill, and my refund check) and all of them give different numbers.  My refund is a full $2000 higher than the number that I read just two days ago…  I spent today being too confused to go back and try to figure out the problem.

7. Fingers crossed that my teachers don’t use as many pdf files this semester.  I really don’t want to spend another $150 on ink.  I already spent $400 on books…

Roger.  Over and Out.  Powering Down.  End of Line, Dillinger…

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