Raiders of the Lost Ark – 30th anniversary Review

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Harrison FordKaren AllenPaul Freeman

Call me childish, call me narrow-minded, call me a “blockbuster-junkie”, call whatever-you-want, but to me this is the perfect film!

Such a bold statement might require some explanation (which hopefully I will be able to give in this post) and certainly begs the question: what makes a film perfect? And, is this really one?

The answer to the second question is a simple and resounding YES.

I believe a perfect film is one that can be watched over and over again: a film that you never grow tired of and that whenever is on TV and you stumble across it, you end up watching. A perfect film is one of those where you struggle to pick up one favorite scene, because they’re all so good. A perfect film is one of those you really wouldn’t change anything about it and where all its elements (story, direction, acting, music, cinematography, editing and so on) come together in a such a way that it’s virtually impossible to choose one over the other.

Raiders of the lost Ark is 30 years old this month, but still shines as if it were made yesterday… except that it wasn’t because, as we all know “they don’t make them like this anymore“.

I still remember going to the movie theatre when it first got released (Yes, I’m giving away my age: clearly I’m not a teenager!) and being absolutely blown away by it. At the time there was nothing like it  (and arguably, that’s probably still true today).

Ever since then people have been trying to  imitate its winning formula, and, needless to say, most of them failed miserably. Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about (and to prove my point), just think of Lara Croft, Prince of Persia, National treasure, The Mummy Trilogy and even those films inspired by the Dan Brown‘s books: well, those are the most successful ones… Enough said. I won’t even go into the list of endless B-movies.

I find quite hard to write about “Raiders”, mainly because I’ve seen it so many times and I know so much about it, that I almost feel compelled to write every single details filling up pages and pages… But don’t worry, I won’t.

Right from the word “go”, from when the summit of the Paramount logo dissolves into a Peruvian mountain (a Visual device which will become the trademark of the entire series), you know you’re in for something which is not only original but clever and handsomely made.

What follows that logo is probably one of the best first sequences of any action movies ever made. The mysterious forest, the haunting music, the bloody  statue, the group of explorers, the old map, the hidden cave, the pulsating tension, the crawling spiders, the giant web, the deadly traps, the decomposed body, the big scares, the golden idol, the sliding  door, the traitor, the whip,  the rolling boulder, the French baddie, the wild Hovitos, the arrows, the chase across the fields, the swinging vine, John Williams‘s “raiders theme”, the snake on the plane, the jokes breaking the tension: and all this is just within the first 10 minutes!!! It is such an incredible edge-of-your-seat beginning that after that the film can afford to launch into a very long scene with some massive exposition

And I haven’t even mentioned the hero himself, Indiana Jones.

Harrison Ford deserves a lot of credits for the success of this film. Who knows what would have happened if Tom Selleck had played the role: he was the first choice, after all (I will be eternally grateful to Magnum PI).

Harrison Ford manages to make Indiana Jones strong and frail at the same time, funny and sad, invincible and weak. Indy is a hero but he gets hurt, tired, dirty and sweaty. It doesn’t matter how far-fetched and over-the-top the action might be, Ford makes it feel real.

Spielberg directs it all with clockwork perfection but he’s also able to improvise on the spot and use it all to his advantage (most famously, the now-classic scene where Indy shoots the sword-man, which as we all know by now, was pretty much improvised on the spot). He orchestrates it all with a mastery that’s never showy and always serving the story and the action as he uses all the tricks in the film-maker book: long lens shots during a chase sequence, a tracking shot across the desert to show the scale of the landscape, a single one-take shot during a drinking competition.

He also knows exactly how to pitch the film: helped by a carefully crafted script, all the improbabilities are always levelled by humour, the action is always counter-balanced by actual dramatic scenes, the magical sense of wonder is always routed to reality and however cartoony some of the characters might be, they’re always incredibly detailed.

Paul Freeman‘s Belloq is not just a baddie. There’s so much more to him: the care and attention he has for Marion, and whole untold back-story and a passion for archeology he shares with Indy are enough to give him more depth and somehow make him more scary. He also gets one of the best lines in the film: “we are only passing though history, this… this IS history”

What started off as a tribute to those Action Saturday Matinee that Spielberg and Lucas loved so much, here becomes a rollercoaster of sheer invention, cracking action and incredible fun. So many scenes are now become classic iconic moments in movie history, whether it’s to do with snakes in  “well of Souls”, or ghost-like creatures during the opening of the ark, running though the streets of Cairo, or fighting with a bald guy by a plane out of control, in a secret chamber underground, or in a massive warehouse with thousands and thousands crates (incidentally, one of the best “last shots” of any movie!!).

This is so much more than just pure escapism: this is a manual of “storytelling with pictures”.

10/10 

Here’s there’s a great fan-made running-commentary of the film. A real work of genius and love for the film made with great care and attention. Well done Jamie!

Raiding The Lost Ark: A Filmumentary By Jamie Benning on Vimeo.

Fair Game – Review

Fair Game (2010) 

Directed by Doug Liman. Starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Anand Tiwari, Michael Kelly, Ty Burrell

Fair Game was the only American film in competition at the Cannes Festival in 2010, and given its political message it comes to no surprise at all that it was selected by the French.

Based on the 2 memoirs by former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn) and Valerie Plame Wilson (Watts), a CIA agent outed by White House officials, the movie tells how the couple were betrayed by the Bush administration and attacked by the media after Mr Wilson decided to publish an article on the New York Times called “What I didn’t find in Africa“.

In the article basically Mr Wilson accuses the White House of misrepresenting him and saying that he had found evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in order to sell the case for the imminent invasion of Iraq.

Fair Game is really split into two parts: the more urgent political thriller, as the pair undertake their respective fact-finding missions (obviously taken from his version of events), and the more emotional domestic suburban drama, charting the couple’s breakdown as their findings are manipulated by the White House (which must come from her memoirs).

Penn and Watts have already worked together twice before (21 Grams and The Assassination of Richard Nixon), and whenever together  in this film, they convincingly managed to convey the intimacy of a real marriage in danger of being destroyed by the constant assaults by reporters and the media in general, the sense of dread given by the death threats and arrogance of the power above them.

Naomi Watts is pretty much perfect as the tightly controlled woman who’s been training for a whole life to  be secretive , and control her own emotions (“I don’t have a breaking point” she says at one point in the film).

Sean Penn, was born to play the role of Joe, the liberally opinionated fighter who’s running against the whole system. He’s basically playing himself and he’s clearly enjoying himself quite a lot (and he’s very good at it too!).

The contrast between the two of them makes a dynamic combination. I just wish there was a little bit more of that in the film.

Unfortunately by trying to stick to the facts (which in a film like this I guess is the safer option), the director Doug Liman (from the first Bourn Identity) give the film a rather slow pace which works against the tension the film is trying to create and eventually its dramatic impact is diminished.

The breaking of marriage happens mostly too  quickly and off-screen and when the final confrontation comes, because we haven’t been so much invested in the relationship we get the feeling that it could have gone either way.

Also, it takes forever to actually get there and the film fells generally a bit too slow for what it’s trying to do. All the President’s Men it ain’t!

On the plus side, the sense of the real story really comes through and by the end of it, somehow you’re just left with a feeling that you’ve been watching a documentary (obviously helped by the very last appearance of some real footage) and you come out of it even more pissed off at the Bush Administration than you’ve ever been.

7/10

Kaboom – Review

Kaboom (2010)

Directed by Gregg Araki. Starring Haley BennettThomas DekkerJames Duva

After the complex, challenging, touching and definitely mature “Mysterious Skin” (2004) I was really looking forwards to Araki’s new film (And let’s just pretend that the 2007 Smiley Face doesn’t even exist).

The trailer makes Kaboom look quirky, subversive and somewhat crazy in a fresh and fun sort of way…. Once again, a misleading trailer! Unfortunately the film itself has really none of that offer, as if Araki, instead of growing up, had been regressing to a film student again, because, that’s what this film feels like: a polished and yet pointless student film! And believe me, I’ve seen many of those in my life!

Thomas Dekker is quite likable and he’s probably the best thing in the film and yet he’s struggling with a story that has no beginning and no end (literally no end!)… And actually, come to think of it, no middle either!

The film tries to be anarchic, dark, sexy, funny, rude, aping films like Donnie Darko and even  The Rules of Attraction  (which was a pretty faulty film anyway). In the end it is just too chaotic and definitely too silly to be taken seriously or to even recommend.

There are very few original ideas and the little excitement in there is only given by the music and the editing, but certainly not by the story. Even the few good lines of dialogue in the script remain too isolated and detached be noticed, let alone remembered and they get lost in the ludicrous plot.

What is real? Is there a conspiracy?  Who are those people dressed like animals? Does any of this really matter? And actually, do we give a toss?

In the end it’s very hard to care about who does what and why, so basically you’ll just end up waiting to see who’s going to have sex with whom,

(Basically everyone seems bed down with just about everyone else in this movie despite their gender differences) and yet, none of the sex has anything to do with the story. It is completely incidental and purely exploitive.

But even if you take it as a sexy film, beyond its average straight/gay/bi soft-core porn clichés, it is all quite unremarkable and gets nowhere close to push any boundary and it thinks it does.

In fact it all gets rather repetitive  (I lost the count of how many times some character wakes up all of a sudden from some bad dream).

This film might have been the director’s wet dream, but none of that excitement shows up in the final product. I’ll give Araki one last chance then I’ll begin to think that “Mysterious Skin” was just a lucky mistake in an otherwise disastrous flexography.

5.0

Rubber – Review

Rubber (2010)  

Directed by Quentin Dupieux. Starring Jack PlotnickWings HauserRoxane Mesquida 

This is probably one of the weirdest film I have ever seen in quite a while… Unfortunately, not in a good way.

Rubber is on the surface a sort of a horror/parody that pays homage to those low-budget American horror films from the 1950s and 60s (the Blob just to mention a one), with a hint of Carpenter’s Christine from the 80s and even Eraserhead by David Lynch.  It has the feel and look of one of those road movies from the 70s and it even reminded me of  Duel by Spielberg (a killer truck in Spielberg’s film, just a tyre in this one) and Wall-E.

Sounds intriguing? Well, sadly all the similarities with the above mentioned films stops pretty soon and the realization that what you’re in fact watching is a rather dull film.

Rubber is the “story” (I use this term very loosely) of tyre (No, I haven’t misspelt the word: it is an actual tyre!) that comes to life and realizes it has psychic powers to make everything that comes in its way explode (bottles, animals, and humans!). Yes, it sounds absurd and it has the potential to be absolutely inspired! In fact, what the film is wants to be really about is more than a horror, but a satire about  “absurdity” and “randomness. It’s a film about the complicity and voyeurism of the audience itself.

The film is intercut between the tyre and a group of people watching the actual events taking place. They serve as a sort running commentary to the film , in the best classical tradition of a Greek Chorus. This part is clearly very heavy-handed, as it tries to rely too much on the dull dialogue to bring the message across (or its so-called “no reason” philosophy). It is certainly not very subtle and it the end it just comes out as too gimmicky and quite irritating. What could have been potentially a very good idea just ends up being too stretched and too arty (ironically, but not surprisingly, the director Quentin Dupieux is French! sorry I couldn’t resist mentioning that…): it is extremely smug and too self-congratulatory.

And it’s a shame because there is clearly some talent behind it all. The film has moments of inspired dark humour. It is very well shot and photographed, but it all gets diluted in the repetitiveness of its self-indulgence. (Even the hilarity of the animals and people exploding looses its impact after a while). As it is, it feels more like a student film…

But more importantly, aside from all that, it is just very very boring indeed (despite being only 82 minutes), so even if we get told that there is “no reason” for this film (literally we are told that, in a monologue at the front of the film), there is absolutely nothing  that makes it worth a feature-length venture. It should have stayed as a short film and it would probably would have been more effective.

4.5/10

Stand By Me – 25th Anniversary Blu-ray – Review

Stand By Me (1986) 

Directed by Rob Reiner. Starring Wil WheatonRiver PhoenixCorey FeldmanJerry O’ConnellKiefer SutherlandRichard Dreyfuss.

25th years after its released a new brand remastered version with a great PiP commentary comes out on Blu-Ray tomorrow.

I find incredibly difficult to review “Stand By Me” without being completely biased and detached, the way a real film critic should be. But then again, I am not a real film critic, I’m just a film lover (and a geek, of course!) and most of the time my response to a film is an emotional one: if it makes me laugh or cry or think then it means that it worked on me; but if it makes me laugh and cry and think, then there is something more to it too!

Basically let me just tell you upfront: I adore this film!

The word classic gets over-used these days. Any anniversary is an excuse to re-release any piece of junk that’s more than 20 years old. Most of those films carry that cheesy sense of nostalgia for the 80s, and that’s sometimes enough for them to appropriate a cult status. But when you look at them closely, you’ll find that they have aged quite badly, either technically (terrible matte paintings, visual effects or synthesized music) or stylistically (Their look, the clothes and the hairstyles people are wearing and the corny dialogue nobody seemed to mind so much at the time).

However “Stand by me” has the advantage of being a period piece (It is set in 1959) and its simple, subtle and honest depiction of the 60s not only hides away the cheesiness of the 80s but also adds a sense of timelessness. The film is 25 years old, but it could just as well be 35 or 45 … and yet it still relates all of us as if it was made yesterday…

I loved it at the time, for its sheer sense of fun, adventure and mischief and I love it today for its poignant look at the way we were…

It’s the ultimate coming of age story, set in the hazy, warm, sunny and dreamy landscape of Oregon, as 4 friends set out on a journey along the railway tracks, looking for the body of a missing boy.

The film is adapted by a short novel by Stephen King, from the book “Four Seasons” (The Shawshank Redemption was also adapted from the same book) and like all the best tales from King, finds its strength in the way the characters are fleshed out: rarely have teenagers so very well depicted like in “Stand by Me”. The contrast between the way they try to act as adults in front of each other, by smoking or swearing (“Go get the food, you morphodite”) and the way they reveal their real age by talking about the most childish and mundane things and yet making them sound profound and meaningful (MightyMouse is a cartoon. Superman’s a real guy!).

Behind all that, there’s a pure, sincere and real sense of friendship that permeates the whole film.

That line at the end on that computer screen “I never had friends like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” resonates in all of us and it’s one of the most poignant and truthful line I can remember in any film.

The interaction between the four young actors is the real power of “Stand By Me”: never for a moment you think they might be acting. Will Wheaton’s take as the sensitive Gordie is impeccable. The way he pauses before delivering his lines, how he smiles and looks at his best friends, how he proudly tells them the story of Lard-Ass, how he breaks down into tears at the sudden realization that his parents might hate him and finally how coldly threatens Kiefer Sutherland‘s terrifying bully, without even flinching (suck my fat one, you cheap die store hood!).

Both Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell are also spot on in their roles, bringing not only that amount of comic relief needed but also that sense of playfulness that kids at that age have (I don’t shut up I grow up, and when I look at you I throw up!)

But ultimately it’s River Phoenix that steals the show. The poignancy and sincerity he brings to the role of Chris Chambers is even more enhanced today by the ending of the film and as we see him fading away in the distance and we’re just left with a sour taste of what an incredible actor he could have become.

Beautifully photographed, as seen from the dreamy eyes of an adult (in this case Richard Dreyfuss) who’s obviously very fond of those memories, the film is also accompanied by the most wonderful soundtrack, a mixture of hits from the time, perfectly integrated into the film (like the moment the kids break into signing “lollipop“) and the actual score made up with a subtle slowed down version of the “Stand By Me” itself by Ben E.King

This film is a real little gem , a small masterpiece, dare_I-say, that works because of its charming and honest simplicity. You could easily argue against some of the clichés and the non-very-subtle depiction of Gordie’s family and the ever-too-perfect-dead-older-brother or obvious lines like “The town seemed different: smaller“, but it would be like arguing that Snow-White is a two-dimensional character, or that Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the cuckoos’ Nest” is an unbelievable bitch: basically it would be pointless.

Reiner’s  film is a true undeniable classic, a nostalgic look at the way we were, in a time of innocence when friendship really meant something and when the most important question was “if Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck, Pluto’s a dog. What’s Goofy?

9.5/10

If you Agree, or disagree, do let me know and leave me a message.

If you enjoy this review, do leave a message (… Actually I guess you should leave one even if you didn’t…)

Howl – Review

Howl (2010) 

Directed by Rob EpsteinJeffrey Friedman. Starring James FrancoMary-Louise ParkerJon HammJeff DanielsTreat WilliamsDavid StrathairnBob Balaban.

I went into “Howl” really wanting to like it. Maybe because I had heard it was a film that tried to do something different, or maybe because I’ve always liked Allen Ginsberg’s poetry or maybe even because in the last few months I have started to think James Franco is one of the most interesting new actors around.

On paper this sounded like the dream film for me. However, leaving the theatre I couldn’t help feeling a sense of disappointment for the failed attempt that it is.

In the end “Howl”  is just a bit of a mess… I can now see why it took so long to be released here in the UK (they’re probably hoping to cash in on the back of James Franco’s notoriety with 127 Hours).

The film is essentially a biopic, not of a person, but of a poem (That by itself is a pretty new concept). How did the poem came about, when it was written and the controversy it caused… And obviously the poem itself.

The directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, are mostly known for their documentaries The Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet. In fact this film too was originally intended as a straight documentary. The decision for the change was due to fact that apparently there is very little material  of Ginsberg himself as a young person, during the time Howl was conceived.

This a certainly not a very conventional film: apparently every word and every scene has been drawn from existing material, whether from interviews, accounts, articles, court transcripts and so on. It follows several different strands and jump through several timelines. A real collage of different stories each with their own different style, pace and music and all put together sometimes in a seemingly random fashion: almost like a film within a film… within a film.

There are several different sides to the film.

There’s Ginsberg himself, beautifully and carismatically played by James Franco, as he’s being interviewed by a faceless reporter. This section has a sort of late 60s look in its greenish-tinted color However as he talks about his life, there are flashbacks to his life, all filmed in black and white. These are the ones who feel more superficial, even though are potentially the most interesting one and certainly the most cinematic ones. Unfortunately they’re too sporadic, too brief and the constant interruption and voice over  somehow alienates its audience and makes it really hard to emotionally engage with any of it. In the end, I can’t help feeling that this part only really scratches the surface.

The other layer in the film is the obscenity trial which in 1957  tried to ban the publication of the poem and prosecuted its publisher. This is the most straightforward part of “Howl”, filmed like a court room drama and focusing on the arguments between the prosecutor (played by David Strathairn) and the defense lawyer (Jon Hamm), though the testimonies of a series of  mainly pompous and prejudiced witnesses from Jeff Daniels to Mary Louise-Parker. It is in a way the most engaging and interesting part of the film too also it shows you how far away that 1957 now is.

Finally, there’s the poem itself: some of  which is performed by James Franco in a club to a group of people in complete awe, but most of it is depicted with semi-abstract animated pieces peppered throughout the movie.

This is the more “showy” part of the film and the most “arty” too (in the worse sense of the word) in my view.

There’s a line at some point in the film, during the trial where somebody says “Sir, you can’t explain poetry, this is why it’s poetry”. Well, the film-makers should have probably listen to their own script a little bit more carefully and follow the advice.

The moment the poem is visualized the film fails as it limits it, shrinks it and trivializes it.

In the end the James Franco is the saving grace of the “Howl”. The blend of styles and the several strands of story are just too ambitious. The film feels over-crammed with things and I can’t help thinking it would have worked a lot better if the film-makers had chosen a simpler way to tell the story, without succumbing to arty devices.

6/10

The Silence Of The Lambs – 20th Anniversary

The Silence Of The Lamb (1991)

(20th Anniversary Review)

Dir: Jonathan Demme With: Jodie FosterAnthony HopkinsScott Glenn

Yes, it has been exactly 20 years since Antony Hopkins appeared for the first time as Dr Hannibal Lecter (the film premiered on the January the 30th in New York and on the 1st of February in LA. Interestingly the film was released to the general public on Valentine’s day: not your typical date movie, is it?).

Back in 1991 it defied expectations by winning the top 5 Oscars (a year after its release!!), best film, director, screenplay, leading actor and actress: it is only the third film in movie history  (after it happened one night and One flew over the cuckoos’nest.)… and the first horror/thriller to win for best film. As it happened a year after Goodfellas lost to Dances with Wolves, it was probably a sign that Hollywood was getting ready to accept the dark side of movies.

20 years later, “The Silence of the Lambs” is still a preposterous film, camp as hell,  absurdly over the top in its premise and its execution and yet it holds a place in American Movie History as a modern classic.

With Hannibal (incidentally a character that appears for only 16 minutes in the film) Hopkins became a star (yes, he was good before this, but few really knew him) and created an icon, which lived on throughout (and despite) its three sequels: Hannibal, Red Dragon (in fact this is both a prequel and a remake of Micheal Mann’s Manhunter) and the very forgettable Hannibal Rising (another prequel, Hopkins-free).

All of a sudden, we all started to love the bad guy, or at least we loved hating him: we loved the fact that he ate the despicable Dr Chilton at the end (“I have an old friend for dinner”, is probably one of the classic final lines of any film, up there with “Nobody’s perfect” in Some Like It Hot), we loved those over the top lines, those chilling looks, his refined taste, his Southern English accent… And we just want him to get away, despite the fact that we know he’s bad.

This is certainly nothing new, Hitchcock had done it  30 years earlier in Psycho, but arguably this is the film that started off the whole trend of “serial killers” with whom we identify, the whole puzzle solving murder mysteries and the mixture of dark horror and funny one liners. Surely without Silence of the lambs and its Hannibal the Cannibal character, there would have been no Se7en by David Fincher, possibly no Dexter on TV and probably not even Jigsaw from the Saw franchise…  And God knows how many others.

However what keeps this film anchored to the ground, despite the over-the-top (but obviously very effective) performance by Anthony Hopkins, is a combination of a very controlled and calculated direction by Jonathan Demmi and the presence of Jodie Forster, who somehow counterbalances her camp on-screen partner.

Jonathan Demmi, uses every little (subtle and non-subltle) trick in the book to suck in his viewers and bring them as close possible to the screen. He films the most intimate dialogue sequences between Hannibal and Clarice in extreme close ups, and has them delivering their lines straight to camera, as if they were confessing their inner secrets directly to us. As he does so, he drops the level of any other sound away from the central conversation, he kills the music and as as he slowly zooms in closer and closer into their faces, he very subtly pushes the bars of the prison cells that separate them away from each other until they actually disappear from the final frame, thus bringing the two characters even closer to each other.

It’s very effective and it works wonderfully!

He even uses the powerful tricks of editing in order to deceive us to believe one thing instead of another. That famous sequence towards the end of the film, where we are lead to believe that the police is about to break into Buffalo Bill’s house and save the day, only to reveal that in fact they’re all actually heading to the wrong place. Nowadays these types of devices have been copied over and over again in countless movies and TV CSI-like shows (and even the great 24) but never worked as well as they did here: it is an incredibly manipulative but just as accomplished moment.

Today so many films about “serial killers”, puzzle solving, cat & mouse chases and dark psychological horrors, they all seem to owe a debt to “The Silence of the Lambs”. Watching it today, we find so many clichés of the genre, but in fact, most of them, if not all of them, were absolutely new at the time.

I am not quite sure it deserved to all all those Oscars, but it certainly deserves its cult status today, 20 years later, for  paving the way to a new genre of thrillers, braner and more stylish horrors.

8.5/10

Check out the review of another modern Classic:

Back to the Future (1985)

Catfish – Review

Catfish

Directed by Henry JoostAriel Schulman. Starring Yaniv SchulmanMelody C. RoscherAriel Schulman

It’s virtually impossible to talk about Catfish without spoiling it for all those people who haven’t seen it. As the poster itself says “don’t let anyone tell you what it is”, so I’ll try to be extremely careful, just  in case, because I do think people should see this film!

Catfish will suffer from the expectations that moviegoers might have been given by the advertising campaign, which once again is very misleading.

The trailer sells is as something that it is not: A thriller or some sort of dark twisty tale. And it’s certainly dark but not in the way you’re expecting it to be: it’s actually so much more than that. It’s a window into today’s world. A touching modern tale of online dating and chatting. A look at today’s society and the ability anyone can have of living a “second life”.

If you go into it thinking that it is a horror, you will leave very disappointed. However if you go in with no expectation or an open mind, you will find yourself moved by this touching documentary.

The authenticity of the documentary itself has been called into question (though the film-makers swear it’s all true). Personally I don’t think the documentary is a fake, or at least the main story isn’t, mainly because it all seems way too plausible.

Yes, of course, some of the sequences might have been re-staged afterwards and some of the realism looks a little too real: for example, all the stuff around the setting up of the microphones, or the shots were the camera has been left on in the car just long enough for us to get the idea that our characters are getting ready.Or the shots of our main guy, with his hand in his pants, as if he didn’t even realized that the camera was on him… Or the final few scenes around the last package that arrives. Even the main’s character’s haircut conveniently changes when we need to know that time has passed .

However whether it’s all true or not is irrelevant to me.

It’s interesting to compare it with fake-documentary (released only few months ago) “I am here” by Casey Affleck. In that case, the fact that the documentary had been faked it, made the whole thing seem pretty redundant and in the end, you’re just just left with a scam which is hard to take seriously.

Here the message of the film is clear and yet at the same time it manages to be quite subtle.

It works either way, whether the whole thing has been set-up or not… Oh I wish I could say more!

I should probably watch this film again to be able to tell you whether the film is a one time trick or if it might even work on repeated viewings, however I was hooked and on the edge of my seat all the way through.

On the visual side of things, Catfish has the usual “handheld/shaky-cam” style we are so used to seeing these days, but it’s also full of little touches that fit the story so well. For example the Google-Maps and Street View style to show characters’ locations both in New York and Michigan and the houses of people miles away and yet so clear and so real…

This is what good storytelling is. It’s a clever, thought-provoking and intelligent documentary that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled on.
I saw this a week ago and I am still thinking about it.

8.5/10

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