Thursday, July 31, 2008

DJG / Three Random Films

Kinky Boots * * * ½

“Kinky Boots” is a nice, sweet and somewhat fresh little British film based on a true small town story charged on creativity, change, trust and social tolerance. It’s about a non-business-minded young man who inherits his late father’s struggling old-fashioned shoe factory. The key to his success is not only a loyal team of workers, but also a no-nonsense, savvy and personable business-minded transvestite who randomly comes into his life. Together they turn the left and the right, switching shoe gears to support each other’s walk and the walk of their workers, becoming competitors in a new brand of shoe fashion.


Frenzy * * * *
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock / 1972

There is an incredible single shot of simplicity about ¾ into “Frenzy” that just mesmerizes the heck out of me and kind of makes me want to be a cinematographer. I watched the scene twice and find it to sum up the brilliance to Alfred Hitchcock and his master play with the art of cinema and the mind of the viewer. At this moment in the film the viewer has already been introduced to the “Necktie Murderer”, as you watch him escorting the film’s leading lady to his apartment. He is helping her lay low for a bit as she is romantically connected to the man wrongfully convicted of London’s notorious serial killing. Ironically enough, the well-groomed, smooth-talking strangler is also a friend to the accused man on the run from the authorities. We follow the woman and the real killer arm-in-arm from his produce business around the corner and up two flights of apartment stairs. They leave us at the door, her saying something similar to, “Thank you for your generosity and giving a lady a place to stay.”, and he jokingly-sinisterly replying with, “You’re welcome and happen to be just my type.” At that, the door closes and we are walked backwards in complete silence down the stairs, through the hallway, out the door, down the front steps and out into the busy street of London. We pass in front of produce sack handlers and wheel cart carriers, all hauling the hand-picked selections that will fill our future dinner plates and guts’ desire. Produce sacks similar to the one that the woman’s body will eventually be stuffed into and discarded in on a potato truck, in a darkly humorous and outrageous scene to follow. But before that, the viewer walks with the camera and watches in horror, knowing what’s next as you see darkened windows of the upstairs apartment from the street level. Never actually seeing a crime being committed, you know that the woman whom you’ve gotten to know the entire film has just bowed out. You know that she will die a senseless death that you cannot do anything about, except watch and know in silence. The act of being squarely in plain view of something of this nature, watching and not helping, is a horrible thing in its own way, and Hitchcock makes us sit and suffer inside our own morals and inner-turmoil. It’s something that jars the senses and shouts wildly and wickedly beyond most any scene that many modern suspense and thriller directors could ever dream of (well, except the Coen Bros.) These Hitchcock seconds of silence not only push our life and law buttons and stretch the emotional immediacy of a master filmmaker’s grand canvas at work and play. These silent seconds are also a tribute to the life about to be lost on screen and the reality of the brutality that we as humans do and see to each other every day…even 36 years after this shot seen round the world. This camera capture is not just a brilliant reflection on the characters, storytelling and the viewer. This shot is not merely a masterpiece of moviemaking. To me, this long shot is Hitchcock bowing out of his take on film and life.


Transamerica * * ½
Directed by: Duncan Tucker / 2005

I’d like to give this one three stars for trying, but the more it stares at me, the more I just plain didn’t like this movie. It was completely underwhelming to me and I lacked any sort of care for the poorly written story and under-developed characters. It had hints at something great lying underneath, but pretty much was thorough in failing to convince anything to me. However, I do give some credit to Felicity Huffman for tackling a very unusual and challenging Oscar nominated role. I feel she was the only thing going for this film, though I must confess that I lacked care for her character about thirty minutes into it. Huffman plays a man who is on the verge of having a complete sex change operation but finds out that he-she has an unruly teenage son from his-her college past and goes on the road to find and help him. Through a laboring (for this watcher as well) and ridiculous road journey from New York City to Los Angeles, Father-Mother and son both end up teaching-and-trusting-and-mis-trusting-and-trusting each other in travel. It’s not the content matter that left a bad taste in my mouth (sex changes, nudity, drug use…shock value blah), rather the way that almost the entire movie was handled in the writing and directing departments. Or, perhaps I’m just getting so tired of the indie market right now? First off, the film felt like it was marketed completely wrong (at least to me?). I knew the basic idea of the movie, but my 2006 impressions of the trailer told me that it was going to be more of a suburbia-struggle-character study type of plot. Actually, I must confess that I think I just got “House-Wived” with clever-stupid marketing, but incredibly smart at the same time. Second, I thought the film would be more polished, and that usually doesn’t ruin something for me. I was disappointed that the more-so “indie” direction caused it to suffer in sincerity and instead relied on the typical cliché trappings of the indie market. The black humor wasn’t really that funny to me, the formulaic “quirky” characters annoyed and frustrated me with their over-blown caricatures and poor acting skills and I feel that there was some nudity that was completely unnecessary and stupid. Which, doesn’t completely destroy a film for me, I just feel that most directors need to be more subtle and original with their storytelling and learn to masterfully execute scenes and circumstances. To top it off, I feel that the idea of “the road trip” picture has finally exhausted itself and the last original and great movie in this genre is Alexander Payne’s five star storyteller “Sideways”. Nice idea, “Transamerica”, but you did close to nothing for me. The best thing that you did for me was spawn a brilliant piece of dialogue in last year’s fantastic film, “Knocked Up”. In fact, this line by Jason Segal inspired me to want to watch you. I shall try to paraphrase/clean it up a bit: “You know who’s hot? That Felicity Huffman. Ever since I saw “Transamerica” I can’t get her off of my mind!”.


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