Depending on what you are looking for in terms of this film, it can be considered good and bad. First off, it is pretty. My main concern these days is that films like Baraka, the Qatsi trilogy (Godfrey Reggio)show an interesting world, but really does not teach us much about where these images are coming from. Of the films I just mentioned I will not say they are bad films. Quite the contrary, they are wonderful visual poems. I just care not to call them a documentary because while I might walk out of the film wondering about what I have seen, I do not think I have learned all that much about how to perform a monkey chant (as in Baraka). Cut to the beat is often the most important element in these films, it is an emotional tug. Often this emotional trick works and we walk out of the film praising its beauty and truth. This is not the case with Homage a Noir.
The film is a failed attempt of that equation. Beautiful scenery, exotic locations, indigenous people, and heart wrenching music. Homage has all of this, but what it really leans on to pull us in is the weakest instrument in film, the slow motion. While most of this film is actually in slow motion the music drives us forward hoping that we are not paying attention to the glorious attributes of mundane life in Africa. Most of the footage is just this, citizens of Cameroon (where the majority of the footage was shot) either staring at the camera or almost living in a sterile environment that most likely feels like a choreographed dance for the camera. Even the shots of just a dollying camera through the marketplace has been slowed down to the point that were it not a moving shot it would seem like a still life painting.
While usually slow motion is an effective tool for slowing down and examining the world it is presenting here it has an opposite effect. If we were to study it really close in this slow motion it seems like the African citizens really do nothing but stand around all day. It almost seems demeaning at times. Maybe I am inferring too much in that case. But whatever the impression one gets, if we were to step back and dissect this film intellectually, one would find nothing more than the great visual poem of a certain aspect of filming a society. Nothing is explained, nothing is described, it is up to the viewer to just go for the ride. The music is the key component to letting the film succeed. The music is so strong that we forgive the shallow shortcomings and start allowing the mindset "Gosh, this is a really pretty film" to sink in. Yes, it is a beautiful film, it is well choreographed, a brilliant showcase of talented editing, and great cinematography, but where Baraka, and the Qatsi films succeed in having a certain theme, prayer, technology and nature, whatever it be... Homage has no theme, just a locale and a lot of willing models.
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