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Rhinoceros Eyes is a fantastical coming-of-age story revolving around Chep, a young, reclusive prop-house employee who falls in love with a detail-obsessed movie production designer named Fran. Fran's need for authentic props sends Chep to great and questionable lengths as he tries to satisfy her requests, and ultimately... win her heart. Written by
I wasn't sure what to expect when I finally sat down in the theatre for a screening of Aaron Woodley's directorial debut, Rhinoceros Eyes. Of course, the motivating factor behind me trying so damn hard to see this film was of course the fact that two of my favourite actors (Gale Harold as Detective Phil Barbara, and Michael Pitt as Chep) had big roles. Oh, and I was pretty impressed by the fact that Woodley is the nephew of the always fabulous Canadian director David Cronenberg (Crash, eXistenZ, Spider). I was almost certain I'd be in for something.not quite normal.
I found myself totally engaged in the story throughout. The irony of that fact that it was a film about a kid living in a movie prop house pretty much intrigued me right away. Of course without great character development and interaction the film would start to lose me; however, that never happened.
The film was essentially a well thought out mixture of comedy and horror. Woodley's satirical version of a common thriller worked well, since the audience seemed to be laughing at all the appropriate cues - a random naked man running across the screen and knocking over Pitt's character, the irony of Detective Barbara fawning over an old movie prop when the evidence of the crime he is investigating is right in front of him, the awkwardness of Chep and his ongoing murmuring to himself.the list goes on.
Michael Pitt delivered an astounding performance as the self-loathing orphan Chep- the boy who lived in a movie prop house- a reclusive character with little to no social skills, who embarks on a journey to find love by committing a streak of ridiculous crimes to please his love interest (Paige Turco as Fran).
As an art director, Fran is obsessed with the authenticity of her props. Enamored by her, Chep is willing to do whatever it takes to get these authentic props for her. On a side-note, I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that Fran's obsession with authenticity in her props completely conflicts with her working in an industry where everything is fabricated or fake.
Chep continues to succeed in finding Fran her props, even though Detective Barbara appears to be hot on his trails. Gale Harold manages to pull off the imprudent character of Detective Phil Barbara seamlessly. His performance was both engaging and funny, as he used facial expression, body language and tone of voice to make the audience believe in the hilarity of his character. Oh and his little dance number near the end kept a wide smile glued on my face.
Small things I should mention - the fact that the film was shot entirely on High-Definition Digital Video, a format that hasn't evolved into the rich qualities of 35mm film yet. Woodley manages to pull off rich colours and tons of shadowy scenes loaded with contrast, even with the limitations of the format. Also, instead of adding in CGI characters to represent Chep's delusions, stop-motion animation was used, which gave them a more authentic feel. The weird characters created by Chep's mind that came to life actually looked like they were made from real objects. not a computerized creation.
I found that near the end of the film, it started to become difficult to decipher whether or not we were trapped inside the fantastical mind of Chep, or if we were witnessing what was actually happening. Also, there were some unanswered holes in the plot.which left it all open for me interpret. Which, I did.
But I'm not letting on what I personally gathered from the film, I strongly suggest you try and see it yourself.
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