Category Archives: 2015

De Palma (2015, Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow)

De Palma is director Brian De Palma talking about his films. He’s talking to the directors, Baumbach and Paltrow, but without ever addressing them by name. De Palma’s filmmakers have zero presence in the film, until the epilogue. Matt Mayer and Lauren Minnerath’s editing is magnificent, especially how they’re usually able to keep De Palma from referencing being interviewed. Because when he’s just talking, De Palma’s a natural storyteller. When he’s being interviewed, he wants to converse. He unintentionally implies De Palma has some specific layers, only it doesn’t. Because De Palma didn’t make the film.

De Palma sits in a chair and talks. He’s usually shot from a low angle and his hands gesticulate with almost three-dimensional effect. Then De Palma cuts to film clips. The film clips are fantastic. They emphasize De Palma’s most startingly composition as a director, then also looking at his Steadicam shots.

When the film starts and De Palma is covering his student days, he’ll talk trash about people he worked with. He talks trash about Orson Welles not wanting to learn his lines, which was also a problem with Robert De Niro on The Untouchables. Only De Palma trashes Welles while making De Niro’s identical action seem cute. But there are more stories–Cliff Robertson’s no fun, John Cassavetes hates special effects–and then they stop. No more trash talk. Except the “cute” De Niro story.

There’s more focus on the technical aspects of the films and less about how De Palma got them made. It’s cool stuff.

When De Palma talks about his films, he acknowledges his divisiveness but doesn’t elaborate. He’s telling the same stories he’s always told. He’s not searching for some great introspective eureka, he’s doing an interview. He’s proud of some movies, he’s not proud of some others. Bad movies are never his fault. Pauline Kael likes him, he can’t be misogynistic. He likes some excellent classic movies. He doesn’t understand why people don’t like his movies.

De Palma’s a neat introduction to Brian De Palma movies. It’s well-produced but otherwise simply a lengthy pitch reel for De Palma.

It’s also a little dishonest. Paltrow and Baumbach shot the interview in 2010. There are clips from a 2012 film, integrated like De Palma’s talking about it. And it changes how the epilogue plays.

As far as documentary filmmaking goes, De Palma is basically a “professional” YouTube video, which is fine. At least it’s not pretentious. And De Palma’s a fun interviewee.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow; edited by Matt Mayer and Lauren Minnerath; released by A24.

Starring Brian De Palma.


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Off to the Vet (2015, Simon Tofield)

Off to the Vet is a longer “Simon’s Cat” cartoon. Eleven minutes instead of three. As always, creator Simon Tofield comes up with a series of annoying cat problems for the titular cat to cause. Here, the cat gets a bee sting on the paw and suffers until owner Simon has to take him to the vet.

There’s the preparation for getting the cat into the carrier, which takes up most of the run time. It’s kind of a battle of the wits, with the cat often winning.

Vet’s success lies in Tofield’s affable animation and his patience in setting up the jokes. Or just honest observations from cat ownership. They’re funny so long as they’re not happening to you. And no one can really get hurt in Off to the Vet, Tofield never lets the cats draw blood.

It’s a solid short. Precious in just the right ways.

However, it probably has zero appeal to non-cat owners (other than for its precious cuteness).

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Simon Tofield; written by Tofield and Emma Burch; music by Stuart Hancock; produced by Burch.


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Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life (2015, Nate Gowtham and Aaron Faulls)

Even though the film’s called Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life, it’s not entirely clear what relationship the documentary is going to have with its subject. There are various people interviewed, ranging from Australian movie stars to record execs to sitcom stars to Mick Fleetwood. Directors Faulls and Gowtham do a fantastic job setting up the film. But no one’s exactly talking about Colin Hay today, they’re talking about him historically. Some of the interviews with the movie stars is just about setting the stage for a time period, for example. And it’s all beautifully edited by David Mercado.

But Colin Hay isn’t really a part of it. His interview clips are from different time periods, there are some where it actually appears he’s talking into the camera from stage, which seems odd. He’s not hostile, but he’s detached. The film hasn’t figured out how it wants to approach him.

Now, I’m going into the film with minimal experience. I was too young for Men At Work when they came out. I was aware of them because their big hits are big hits. I didn’t track down their albums until the mid-aughts. I didn’t even connect Colin Hay and “Scrubs,” which was a thing, and I did watch his episode of “Scrubs.” It was just “what happened to one of the guys from Men At Work.”

As it turns out, kind of a lot, kind of not a lot. But I do wonder how you’d approach the film from a different entry point. Faulls and Gowtham seem to be assuming about my level of knowledge though. It’s not a documentary for music industry enthusiasts. It’s for everyone, presumably whether they’re familiar with Colin Hay or not.

Anyway, right after setting up the documentary’s tone, Faulls and Gowtham shake it up with a history of Men At Work, the band. Real Life runs under ninety minutes and the intro and Men At Work history probably takes up the first third of it. It’s beautifully paced, with good interviews from the band members, but once it’s over, it’s entirely unclear where things are going. The introduction only foreshadowed the Men At Work story.

Only then Colin Hay’s life story starts getting more and more interesting. The closer the film gets to him, as he’s doing more and more of the interviews, as he becomes a much more singular player in the film’s narrative of his life, the more the viewer’s perspective changes. It’s almost like it’s on a swing, but the filmmakers are very carefully controlling it. The more interesting Hay becomes, the less sympathetic.

But then things happen and all of a sudden, Hay–as a subject–is more important for his humanity than anything else. Only Faulls and Gowtham don’t really change the perspective for these sequences. They’re still positioning the viewer’s closeness, even though the content is on a different frequency. And where the film then comes through is how quickly everything becomes simpatico just shows well Faulls and Gowtham do their job.

It’s no mistake, Colin Hay is a fine documentary.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Nate Gowtham and Aaron Faulls; director of photography, Faulls; edited by David Mercado; produced by Gowtham, Faults, and Elizabeth James; released by TriCoast Worldwide.


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Night People (2015, Gerard Lough)

Endings should never be too literal; especially not in a film where a character talks about having ambiguous endings to stories. Night People ends too literally, especially after a third act where all sorts of threads dangle near one another. Writer and director Lough doesn’t tie things up exactly, but he does go out of his way to imply the viewer has no idea what’s been going on.

The structure of the film is pretty simple. Michael Parle and Jack Dean-Shepherd are a couple of arsonists who have to pass some time; what better way than to tell a couple scary stories. It’s an old, sturdy structure to a fall back on and Parle’s so good–and Lough’s direction of the present action is awesomely creepy–the film can get away with it, especially after Dean-Sheperd’s story starts.

Unfortunately, Parle’s story is first. He doesn’t narrate it, which probably would’ve helped. Instead, the film cuts to the Michael McLaughlin digging up some weird object and getting his science nerd school chum (Eoin Leahy) to figure out how to make it work. Per the dialogue, Lough seems to be going for something Lovecraftian, but he doesn’t really get there. He also doesn’t try very hard. Some of the problem is neither McLaughlin or Leahy are likable characters, nor are they reliable enough to be sympathetic. Lough’s handling of the sci-fi elements aren’t bad at all, it’s just dramatically inert. And Andrew Norry eventually shows up and provides some solid diversion (he and Parle look like twins though).

Luckily, the second story is awesome and all thanks to its protagonist, played by Claire Blennerhassett. She’s the facilitator of deviant desires and finds herself in a dicey situation as she auditions for a promotion. Lough’s script makes some leaps, but Blennerhassett’s so good it doesn’t matter. The second story also has a lot more locations than the first and Lough has a great eye for placing his actors, something he rarely gets to do in the first story.

The reveals at the end are occasionally surprising, but the film goes out way too literally. Lough sacrifices some of the subtlety he built in the first story to give the impression of tied plot threads. Whether or not they are tied is immaterial, since Night People’s more about the sense of it all.

It’s a fine feature length debut from Lough, with fine photography from Greg Rouladh and effective music from Cian Furlong. And Blennerhassett and Parle are awesome.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Gerard Lough; photographed and edited by Greg Rouladh; music by Cian Furlong; produced by Lough and Tanya McLaughlin; released by Rogue Frame Films.

Starring Michael Parle (Mike), Jack Dean-Shepherd (Luke), Claire Blennerhassett (Faustina), Sarah Louise Carney (Lilian), Aidan O Sullivan (Robert), Michael McLaughlin (Randall), Eoin Leahy (Adam), Philip Doherty (Matt) and Kieran Kelly (Blake).


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