A Couple Of Notable Films

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I’ve seen two films lately worth blogging about. The first, Gaspar Noé’s Enter The Void, sports the following blurb on IMDB: “A drug-dealing teen is killed in Japan, after which he reappears as a ghost to watch over his sister.” That pretty accurately summarizes the plot, but plot has very little to do with this film. It’s really all about the visual imagery, thanks to the largely first-person point of view from which it never deviates. The only time you see the protagonist’s living face, in fact, is in the mirror. And for the majority of the film, the perspective is not only subjective but also out-of-body: a ghost’s-eye POV, soaring over roofs, and through walls and heads. Early on, this discomfiting perspective includes perceptual distortions of the sort produced by various psychedelic drugs and magnified by the uber-alienating cityscapes of Tokyo. But the best of the imagery focuses on far more mundane subject matter, some of which – especially near the end of the film – is graphically sexual, but not particularly erotic… Rather, the point of all that feverish coupling is, well… surprisingly Buddhistic. Enter The Void is definitely not for everyone, but if the brief description above piques your interest, I recommend your checking it out.

The second film is the documentary, or near-documentary, Catfish, by three rather young filmakers: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, and Yaniv Schulman. Unlike the technical virtuosity of Enter The Void, this production is shoe-string city, shot partly on little hand-held cameras, mostly in natural light and with ambient sound. But the low production values rarely get in the way, and sometimes they actually help by reinforcing the film’s sense of authenticity; you feel as if you’re watching a well-edited home video, and that somehow makes the film’s dénouement all the more touching. Catfish raises interesting questions about the ethics of internet relationships, but, due in part to the self-centeredness of the film-makers (which they make no attempt to hide), it also raises questions about the documentary form itself. For while the film-makers document a sort of romantic “abuse” that Yaniv suffers at the hands of a Facebook friend he has never met in person, the way they doggedly pursue their investigation into the matter itself teeters on the edge of abusiveness, without ever quite falling off the cliff. For the most part, Catfish pulls off its delicate high-wire act, and you’re left with a surprisingly complex aesthetic and emotional experience that adds up to far more than the sum of its low-budget parts.