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Ramin Bahrani is one of the world's most promising filmmakers right now
- his first three features, Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and Goodbye Solo,
reveal an artist at work who is interested in showing lives as they
are, or how they should be, even in the unfortunate circumstances the
characters are in (working a cart, living in a Queens ghetto, readying
to die). With Plastic Bag, one might think this is going to be a
short-film version of what Wes Bentley's character did in American
Beauty, filming "the most beautiful thing in the world". But it's
deeper than that, more touching. It takes a rare eye and heart to make
something this moving, a saga of a bag that, by way of a 'voice' by
Werner Herzog (that unmistakable Bavarian soul put into it).
It might remind one of a few other movies or stories - immediately I thought of tales where a character is left behind, a machine used to serve a purpose until it has none, like WALL-E or A.I. But Bahrani means to show more than that, and it actually fits well into his oeuvre so far. What does this Plastic Bag do isn't a concern as much as who 'it' is. This may sound pretentious, but the way it's presented it's done like a poem or a short story that on the surface is cute and underneath reveals much about the human condition. How would we want to live, or be, as a plastic bag, happy to be used and have an owner, upset by the competition of a dog, and then tossed aside in a garbage heap? It's hard to describe how moving the film is, and how wonderful it's shot and scored, until you actually see it. It can be seen online now at youtube, and I recommend it as one of those must-see short films, like Un chien Andalou.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an 18-minute short film from 6 years ago written and directed by Ramin Bahrani. It was the filmmaker's very first project with German filmmaking and narration legend Werner Herzog, but several followed since then and maybe also will in the future. Now, this short film here should be a prime example to aspiring movie makers that you do not even need a cast to make a great film. All you need to do is turn an interesting idea into a great script and execute it properly. For the entire film we follow a plastic bag. Early on it is with a woman who used it for her groceries. But when she uses it to clean away dog feces from the floor, she throws the bag away too and the outdoors journey begins. The most interesting thing about it is probably Herzog's narration. If you heard everything he says without the pictures and video, you would never expect that this is about a plastic bag. The words are also very appropriate for human beings. It's about past relationships, the longing for the ex-partner, but also the future and finding new love. And even more than that, it's about God whatever he might look like, here referred to as the "maker". You don't need to be religious to appreciate this film. I am not, myself. I also really liked the ending with the comment about mortality and I did enjoy the part where the bag finds jellyfish and thinks they are the same as he/she/it is. All in all, a great success that makes me curious about Bahrani's new projects.
Wonderful 18 minute short following the 'life' of a plastic bag as it
muses on the meaning of it's existence.
The bag's narration is terrifically voiced by Werner Herzog!
Funny, sad, and ultimately carries a potent environmental message, but in a completely original way.
It struck me as this generation's entirely worthy answer to the classic "The Red Ballon"
Available on YouTube and various web sites (a quick google will turn it up), it's also a special feature on the DVD of Herzog's 'My Son My Son What Have You Done?'
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As an exercise in clever if a bit sophomoric and derivative (think Albert Lamorisse's classic 1956 short, THE RED BALLOON) story-telling, PLASTIC BAG deserves a rating of perhaps 7 out of 10. However, CNN reported this week some cat in Italy just inherited $13 million--making it the THIRD richest pet around today. Well, that amount of money could buy at least 4 million Happy Meals for the starving kids of the world--at the retail price. C'mon, pets are NOT people, let alone balloons or plastic bags, no matter how much film or bytes sophisticated movie makers waste upon anthropomorphizing them. As I type this, I have a dozen plastic bags stuffed into my pants pockets, since I need to use a few every day as spur-of-the-moment containers. I am NOT willing to think any of the bags squished below my posterior are musing in their droll Bavarian accents about revenge against me, or about "escaping" into the atmosphere to frolic in the breeze till they can choke Flipper in the seas. After glimpsing the mind behind Werner Herzog's MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE? (to which DVD the PLASTIC BAG short he narrates--as the bag!--is attached), I can just picture this dottie old Bavarian mesmerized by the view of an airborne bag beyond the windshield of his Jetta as he plows through a group of school kids waiting at a bus stop. It's time to get real, folks!
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