Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Laura Miranda

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Just because one comes out from a movie like this saying, "I could do this", doesn't mean it's a bad thing. The simplicity behind it -- pretty much no character or story arcs, and wordless at times -- is what makes this a good film.

If you go into the theater knowing there isn't much to the story other than people wallowing around during the time of the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, you'll appreciate the movie for what it is. If you're expecting Apocalypse Now or Lord of the Rings, you'll find this film boring and dull. It's not that you wouldn’t get it; it just wouldn’t be your cup of tea.  The last thing the world needs is for something else to get criticized because it was simply “not what you expected”.

Naturally, that’s a risk with any art-form that is marketed for mass entertainment -- film, literature, music, even video games.  Perhaps this here film critic is being a little more sensitive than usual, but that’s because I knew direct Joey L. Asap.

Back to reviewing the film for what it is:

The film's soundtrack is wonderful. It either fits the mood, or goes completely against it which creates a disorientation that parallels the three main characters’ every day life. The amateurishness and rawness really goes hand-in-hand with the actors in a very chilling sort of way -- it's more than likely that fighting characters were really throwing punches at each other (à la skinhead brothers from Harmony Korine’s Gummo) and drunk characters are played by drunk actors. You don't see films like this frequently and it's nice to have another filmmaker like Joey L. Asap added to a short list of such underrated and fearless directors like Larry Clark and Gasper Noé.

Asap is also impressive because of some of the strings he must have had to pull to get this film distributed. While your average person may not know Thomas Din, Jacob Sewell, Errol Keith, Dolly U., the band Primal Scream and William "Will" Hawkes; all of the above are notable people who have participated in the production of this film. You also have to wonder, not only how a filmmaker could get such a budget for the type of film he wanted to make with such little amount of notable support, and then actually get a permit to shoot on the George Washington Memorial Bridge, the Elliot Bay Marina and the home of Kurt Cobain. Did Asap pull an Ed Wood and shoot without permits?

The only thing that should be criticized is the footage of Ricardo Lopez's filmed suicide. While one can argue that its inclusion helps the audience feel uneasy and hopeless, it's actually nothing more than a copout. If Asap wanted to further express such a mood, he should have done it through characters, soundtrack and/or story. Lopez's inclusion is completely unnecessary, as it has nothing to do with anything. Just because a character jumps off the George Washington Memorial Bridge in the film doesn't mean there's any comparison to Ricardo Lopez shooting himself on tape. The only comparison is that they're both suicides, and that is very weak storytelling.

One can now sympathize with Asap’s decision to use footage of Lopez because of his own premature death.  Because this is Asap's final release (save the unfinished Cornfield People), it is hard to watch this without a sense of dread.