Monday, April 5, 2010

We Live In Public, 2009 - Ondi Timoner

For me, this was one of the most anticipated Docs of last year. We Live In Public is a film that looks at a man who predicted, before anyone else, more about the interconnected world we live in today. It also offers perhaps the best modern argument, that being the first at something, doesn't guarantee you will be the one everyone remembers. Josh Harris is that man, and his misguided motivations make this film a hard sit at times. Such is the lot of films that have a not so very likable person at their center. He seems the sort that perhaps needed to attend a lot of psycho-therapy to undo the damage from his childhood before interacting with the world at large. Instead, his pathology was able to flourish and find support through his genius. It is at times painfully obvious this man is headed on a downward spiral and will take anyone that's around for the ride. One of the things that still makes this film fascinating, is how eager everyone was to take part in this man's obviously corrosive whims. Which is perhaps the most damning argument the film makes on today's indulgent and transparent culture.

Josh Harris is someone filled to the brim with familial issues, and acts out on them in all his social experiments. Strangley, this all felt a bit bland and lacked any sort of real surprises since it was pretty easy to see where things were going. It is a very sad story about a very sad man. Genius or no, we like our main characters to come to some sort of closure. At the very least to come to some self realization on a human level. He reflected much on his business ventures, and learned lessons. Although, his personal interactions with the people in his life, are as stilted and lacking in any real resolution at the end, as they were when the film began. This man is the sort to rationalize his relationships into who wronged him and how.

Ondi Timoner seems to be making a career out of these sorts of men. She won me over with her work on "DIG!" when I saw it a few years ago, I was riveted even though I didn't care for most of the people it was about. At times, the film seemed to play out like a rehash of the bouts with drugs bands were having in the late 60's and early 70's. A story of course that just repeats itself over and over. Also, it was one of those stories where you know it will not end well for any involved. The presentation was compelling because of Timoner's unfolding of the stories. It was a story of excess and ego-mania, and was simply captivating to see the path of destruction these bands were on. Another fascinating thing about Timoner's work is the seemingly bottomless access she's granted from her subjects. She somehow is able to get inside these people in ways not apparant to other filmmakers. With her deconstructing of the Male Ego, Timoner may be the Katherine Bigelow of the Indie Doc World. That's high praise coming from this guy. 
This film was viewed on DVD

L4YER CAKE, 2004 - Matthew Vaughn

I was convalescing a pulled tooth last week; too lazy to get up and insert a blu ray disk, I caught this movie just as it was starting. Let me just say, avoid any movie that substitutes a number for a letter in the title, when it seemingly has no meaning except to look cool. Layer Cake wasn't terrible, like many of the new slate of crime dramas to come out of England. It is however, very underwhelming and over usese a sexy camera style to compensate for the lack of story. The eminently cool Daniel Craig, delivers another hard nosed, machoized performance. Lucky for him he does these so well. The rest of the cast comes through with terrific characterizations in support of a film that lacks a compelling purpose for them. It's a pity the cast had to wallow through the weak narrative and over wrought plot line. These are the types of movies that need to rely on ever more intricate plot devices to keep you watching. It's always easy to spot a film that lacks in substance right at the get go. Is the camera being extra busy doing things to keep you interested? Yes? Then you know what you're in for. A film with a solid screenplay rarely has to do that because the frame is filled with relevant content that's always furthering the story. 
This film was viewed on IFC HD