Wish you were a punk rocker with flowers in your hair?
A slacker movie for the revolutionary generation - Monkey Warfare is a generation gap movie that goes counter-culture - at first it seems to be about green values but those values shift more and more into the red as the relationships unfold.
The central character Dan, played with nice understated comedic skills, by Don McKellar, is a scavenger - he and his room-mate / partner Linda, (Tracy Wright) live by finding odd rarities and sticking them on internet auction sites - and they find have their stoner underground existence undone by the appearance of Susan, a young independent but impressionable drug-dealer. Played by Nadia Litz this was a role she obviously relished and she plays it well - a nice mix if jaunty-sexy, confident-sassy, and yet an innocent somehow wanting to change the world and knowing that dealing weed won't do that...
All that is missing is the Cenfuego Handbook and the Anarchists' Cookbook - a gentle almost nostalgic look at how for a whole generation knowledge of red politics was what made you acceptably cool and hip - and how the next generation grabs and run with that. A tale of how ideals are the ideal way to get you into trouble.
This is done with subtle verve: Monkey Warfare is very funny and yet has an benign edginess that we loved. It is a simple tale, simply told - yet contains little sidelines and hints that intrigue - Earl Pastko as the landlord is only screen for some 50 seconds but is outstanding. It also becomes a cautionary tale, and here its hidden impact lies. The heavier themes never detract from its sense of fun - it really is a clever piece of film, and at no stage loses its way - and for that it should be praised alone.
This is well shot, and very well edited, and doesn't hit you over the head with its message - rather it draws you in slowly and unfolds like origami. Director / Writer Reginald Harkena has done a really good job at matching content and style, and the production values are amazingly high for such a low-budget film: it looks and feels much more expensive that it really is: great cinematography, editing, and very good interior lighting and sound, and in particular set decoration, really help. They must raided every hippy home in Canada for the props.
The soundtrack is one of the better in recent memories digging out lost bands of the late sixties / seventies and adds nicely to the overall vibe.
Recommend viewing for those who like their films to be more than the usual fare - it is certainly made with real love. and the script and acting shine. It reminded us of Garden State without the forced humour - it is definitely not an American-styled film - it does strongly have elements of French & Italian cinema in there - the camera work is almost delicate - independent, semi-documentary in places, in others great mise-en-scène shots etc; very, very nice. All combines with a fabulous sense of slacker pace.
A tale to be savoured - it is not wholly successful in its subversive undertow to wake us out of the current global malaise - but certainly more interesting in its values that most films and a nice counter-balance to the bland hurrah morality of most films: it made us think and it made us laugh - and who could ask for more?
Recommended as unusual...
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