Two bumbling store clerks inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with... Read allTwo bumbling store clerks inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with their own camera, with a budget of zero dollars.Two bumbling store clerks inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with their own camera, with a budget of zero dollars.
Oh, we've had "Amelie," and that's great, but in general, the ideas of reflection and cinematic exposure in French hands have been about as successful as the architecture of the Pompidou Center is engaging. Even the art therein, as typified by Niki de Saint-Phalle, is wan.
But these ideas have always had promise, and combined with the American invention of noir have more or less become embedded in everyday film. There isn't a better example than Michel Gondry. He was an ordinary drummer in an ordinary band until making that band's videos. And then Bjork's. And then Kaufman films, and then an Oscar. Finally, perhaps the highest honor for a creative mind: to be named artist in residence at MIT.
Here is the product of that tenure.
Its a film with three distinct parts. These parts are not well integrated, I think by design, and that will allow newspaper and internet reviewers pretending to be critics to give it bad marks. And that will be too bad. In my city, this was showing in one theater, for one late showing per day.
The first part of the film is a rather conventional Jack Black-centric comedy. It involves his battle with the massive power plant next to the junkyard in which he lives. Its funny in what is already a conventional juvenile style. It however has one of the best sight gags in recent memory: Black shows up one day in camouflage to convince the Mos Def (even the name is a joke) character to participate in an assault on the plant. Later, he in (cameo as well) and Jack do climb the fence surrounding the plant. But they are interrupted by the cops and freeze, their cameo perfectly matching where they happen to be standing, complete with partial signage. That one joke is worth your six bucks.
The middle section has the two taping ad hoc versions of the movies in the store. Its a wholly different sort of humor, goofing on the folding mechanism I note so often in my comments. These are homemade movies within a homemade movie. Each follows Ted's law in being precisely as abstract (which in this case includes the offhand homemadeness) as the movie in which it exists. Some of this is really good, and to keep it funny, the pace increases phenomenally until it would take many viewings to get the jokes.
The final section is a third film, whose effectiveness depends on the first two. Its sweet, deep and very affecting. You will end up crying as I did. They are unable to continue making "Sweded" versions of movies because of the evil studios, who surely are moving to become as strong as possible in fighting imagination. So they make a "new" movie, a fiction about Fats Waller. You will have seen parts of this at the beginning of the film, and there's no mistake that this is the emotional center of the project and why Danny Glover was required.
Its in the tradition of a Rooney-Garland "let's have a show" movie, involving the entire neighborhood. And it is as sweet and endearing as can be. Extremely post-racist and human, unashamedly using children where they mean something. And celebrating the sort of random "make up anything" fun that's at the soul of Waller's music. If you know Swedish films, even the term is a massive joke.
This is a gem. If you like film, and as a result are in danger of jaded watching, of analytical hell, this will help you escape. It could be one of the two best films you will see this year.
Oh, and after you see it. Not before, after, you really must see the trailer by Gondry where he "Swedes" his own film, replacing the Black and Def characters in fact every character with himself.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
- Mar 9, 2008