Saturday, February 12, 2011

Alamar, The Runaways, Everyone Else - Capsule Reviews

A few thoughts on Alamar, The Runaways and Everyone Else.

Alamar (2009)

A lovely film from 2009 by Pedro Gonzáles-Rubio, a meditation on the relationship between fathers and sons and man and nature. A pseudo-documentary or an experiment in film similar to the neo-realism of yore, the actors are essentially playing themselves but the film is not so much documenting as it is capturing, contemplating, caressing. The digital photography is wonderful, the compositions among the best I've seen in a film in a very long time. This is probably among the best films of recent years, a great non-linear, non-narrative poetic film without any of the usual art-house pretensions. Highly recommended.

The Runaways (2010)

As Timerwolves as they get, completely standard with nothing new to offer to the genre (it's basically a genre film even though the filmmakers don't seem to want to admit this). It's not clear why the story of girl-pop-punk band The Runaways needed to be told; the most interesting aspect of their story is that they were among the first "concept" groups, entirely manufactured to cater to a certain demographic, the brain-child of producer and manager Kim Fowley, played here in an obvious and so-over-the-top-its-boring performance by the usually talented Michael Shannon. As such the tale might have held potential to reveal truths about art as entertainment and entertainment as product but instead we get the usual rags-to-riches-to-rags story. The focus, for the most part, is on lead-singer Cherie Currie, well-played by Dakota Fanning who does the best she can with what little material she has. Director/writer Floria Sigismondi is under the unfortunate impression she's making something edgy or exciting. The visuals just lie there and the story-arc is uninspired. The film was obviously made by talented people but it has no spark or flair. To put things rather bluntly, in language offered repeatedly by the aforementioned Fowley character, the film completely lacks a pair of balls. This is most apparent in some completely ridiculous lesbian-sex scenes that are (one would assume) supposed to be edgy and erotic in the tradition of European art-house cinema. They instead make Zalman King seem like a master of the mise-en-scene (you've got to love those fluttering drapes). The best thing about the film, by far, is Kirsten Stewart, who turns in a subtle and interesting performance as Joan Jett, the rock n' roll heart of the group, refusing to succumb to the usual clichés and instead offering an interesting and rather sensuous take on what could have been the most superficial and obvious part of the film. Although Stewart obviously has a long way to go before her talents are completely honed I must admit that her restraint and development of the character had me very impressed.

Everyone Else (2009)

Gitti and Chris are a German couple vacationing and working - or hoping to work - in Italy, a quintessentially fragile and confused Gen-Y couple, trying to hide their discomfort behind a bohemian/hipster facade. He is an architect who is talented but not quite talented enough to defeat his own inexplicable (yet all too relatable) self-loathing and doubt. She works for a record company and is a much stronger and grounded person, both comforting and threatening to Chris in ways he can't even begin to understand. There are a lot of interesting themes presented here, among which are the conflict between security and success versus freedom and rebellion. The tension between the couple, the masculine and the feminine, is also explored in interesting psychological ways, gender roles and stereotypes turned on their heads through very effective dialogue and images. The main thrust of the story centers around their involvement with another German couple, Hans and Sana, who are much more traditional and conservative in their dynamic, lifestyle and philosophy but also seemingly more comfortable and successful in both their business and their life. The film is well made and represents the best of the lo-fi European style in several scenes with great use of silences and half-expressed fragmented thoughts beautifully realized through very able cinematography and direction; you can see the confusion and emptiness in the characters faces as they speak these words, even though it is also somehow apparent that they could be so much happier and honest if only they broke free of their shallowness and neuroses. Yet the film also suffers from this European minimalism. Chris is the protagonist of the film and he is awfully hard to relate to, a whimpering, rather pathetic man who could use a good slap in the face and a year on a farm. Even though Everyone Else lays bare many recognizable wounds it doesn't reveal much truth in this opening-up, relegating itself to the kind of superficial psychology of the ego (the false-self) that came to define much of the (bad) literature of past decades instead of dealing with the grander spiritual or philosophical questions of life.

1 comment:

danyulengelke said...

Great review!

We're linking to your 'Everyone Else' article for Berlin School Wednesday at

Keep up the good work!