Saturday, 30 July 2016

Film fest '16: Day Five

Today marked a return to the back row for a pair of disparate documentaries.

Tower (Keith Maitland, 2016)

A terrific, unflinching yet artful look back at one of the US's first and most infamous mass shootings, Tower takes the now-familiar approach of creating historical re-enactments with rotoscoping animation (ala 2008's Waltz with Bashir being the most notable example).

What could have just been a gimmick is used to support the stories of the eye-witnesses, victims and heroes who were there that day in 1966. 

The approach does not sensationalise or over-dramatise the events, nor do the filmmakers try to force the story into a thriller.

Though he is referenced, the perpetrator, Charles Whitman remains offscreen, the only signs of his presence being archive footage of his rifle discharging from the tower. Unlike more traditional documentaries about spree and serial killers, he is never built up into some kind of cinematic villain. 

The filmmakers keep the focus clearly on the people on the ground, and, despite the obvious constructed-ness of the re-enactments, Tower is an extremely visceral and at times terrifying experience.

Sad, suspenseful but ultimately a moving tribute to the heroes of that day, Tower is unique and powerful viewing.

On the other side of the coin...

All These Sleepless Nights (Michal Marczak, 2016)

What a snoozer.

This Polish drama should have been re-titled 'Forced laughter and significant staring'.

The story concerns a young man trying to figure out his love life over the course of a year.

The film is based around the idea that our late adolescence and early adulthood remain our strongest, most emotionally resonant memories.

The movie makes a good attempt of replicating this by crafting the story as a series of vaguely disjunctive sequences and ultra-realistic sound design.

These technical tricks would have worked if the spine of the story provided a strong hook, but I found the whole experience maudlin and one-note.

The only joy I got out of it was a brief scene where our hero meets a pair of 50-something drug dealers who are the spitting image of Jay and Silent Bob. Apart from this bizarre bit of homage however, it felt like treading water.

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