This Revolution (2005)
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Is the filmmaker suggesting we aren't ready for such ideas?
The scene in Butterfly provides a metaphor for the way anarchism and politics in general have been treated by filmmakers. With few exceptions, either such topics aren't broached at all, or they are broached in such a way as to leave the viewer completely mystified. "Social Realism", according to the online artcyclopoedia, "is a rather pejorative label in the United States, where overtly political art in general, and socialist politics in particular, are extremely out of favor".
Which is perhaps why I enjoyed "This Revolution" so much. There's nothing shameful about expressing overt political sentiments in art, and there's nothing shameful about going overboard either. Witness John Heartfield, or Josep Renau, or Jean Vigo, or Pier Paolo Pasolini. Better sorry than safe, and better to risk being labeled pedantic than pussyfoot around the issues in the hopes of appeasing the critics.
The film is honest. Marshall may not be in the same league as Pasolini, but as another reviewer pointed out, he's not ending his career but beginning it. There's nothing in This Revolution that can't be forgiven in light of the budget constraints and timetable. If nothing else, it's a lot of fun. Watch for Immortal Technique's piece and the 9/11 rant; watch for the RNC footage, which is electrifying (you won't always be sure what is staged and what isn't); and watch for the reference to Malatesta, who I'm pretty sure has never been mentioned in the medium before.
Get off your high horse and I think you'll find Marshall's film refreshing and timely. We need more of this stuff.
I had a great experience seeing this film. I was very surprised while, buying popcorn, I looked up to see Roger Ebert standing next to me. Also attending the festival, Roger took in "This Revolution" along with other features.
The film begins rather awkwardly, perhaps reflective of the very tight filming which took place (Stephen Marshall rushed production to hit the deadline for entry into Sundance). However, as the narrative unfolds, the film begins to come together quite nicely.
"This Revolution" explores the interactions of a network broadcaster, Jake Cassavetes, as he collects interviews and footage of the 2004 RNC convention in NYC. Jake's relationships with two women, one a producer at his network, the other Tina Santiago (well played by Rosario Dawson), the widow of a slain Iraqi occupation soldier.
As the narrative unwinds, we learn that Jake's network is relaying the footage he collects to the Department of Homeland Security, which is building profiles on each of the "enemy combatants" involved in the protests.
Stephen Marshall succeeds in crafting a highly compelling film with "This Revolution." He combines the best of his work as a documentary and short film director, including his signature "scratch" technique. The scenes between the leads, Dawson and Nathan Crooker, are effective, and relay excellent chemistry.
While the production contains several flaws, these can be excused as the work of a first time director. The overall end production is very powerful, and memorable. It is worth seeing if only for the footage of the RNC protest, suppressed in our mainstream media. Watch for the cameos by Marshall, including the scene where he is arrested.
The acting overall is terrible except for Rossario, which is not surprising considering the Director at the screening said most of the lead characters had no acting training, his excuse being that he wanted them to be real. Heres a hint, real people can't act, but actors can usually act real.
It would of been not so cornily offensive if it wasn't blatantly obvious about how keen he was to push this extremely radical conspiracy theory onto us throughout the whole movie, its especially hysterical when we get a scene where the director cameos and starts ranting on about ridiculously stupid theories and secret agendas. The movie also does a good job of laughably stereotyping every single role, it tries so hard to romanticize these street activists and stamp a big 'Good' or 'Evil' on every character.
Skip it, maybe find yourself a nice real documentary/
The film appears to have been conceived in good faith as an attempt to capture the spirit of the activists and deliver their message in a film. However in reality the film has a very thin plot that it spends a lot of time on and leaves most of the commentary down to asides that are sound-bites no different from those you have heard before. If you agree with what they are saying then I guess maybe you can ignore the quality of the film and embrace this content but that will only appeal to a limited audience and even then. Many have criticised the quality of the filming but I can forgive this to a point given the low budget and style of making. Some of the set shots are really clunky and obvious though and little about Marshall as director is of interest. The real problem is in the material though which doesn't have the complexity and realism to draw the viewer into the characters or the discussion. This is a real shame considering how many viewers (including myself) will agree with the broad sentiments of the activists (if not their methods) but yet it just clunks around on the screen in an annoying way.
The blame must more or less be totally put at the feet of Marshall because he is responsible for the majority of the film. His low budget matches his low ambitions in regards his cinematography and plotting and the end result is a rather lacklustre film that looks cheap and feels thrown together. The cast are mixed but generally don't have the material to help. Even if Dawson got the cover and the headlines, Crooker takes the main character you will probably not have heard of him as an actor because he is frankly not very good. He doesn't feel real and has no screen presence not helped by the nature of filming either. Dawson tries to have chemistry with him but it doesn't really work. She is good once (on the fire escape) but she has no character, no material and has been put in a hairstyle meant to make us think "street" but only made me think "wow, someone has worked out a way to make the stunning Rosario Dawson look ugly". Outside of these two the supporting cast are mixed the activists generally convince but other set performances are generally weak. It was a nice idea to have the political rapper Immortal Technique involved but again this doesn't work within the context of the film.
This Revolution is a nice idea and got fame from Dawson's arrest but yet it doesn't make the most of this potential. The ugly visuals I can sort of understand but the plot is messy, the characters poorly drawn and the message is clunked down in an obvious manner that is a lot less effective than it would have been if it had been delivered with intelligence, insight and debate. Of course it has been made for a target audience who loved it before they saw it, but for the casual viewer this is a pretty average film.