Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tick Tock

Were John Sayles to portray John Hubley in a film, that would mark the conflation of my two movie-making heroes.

If it were directed by John Cassevettes that would make the Trinity of great cinematic Johns.

John Sayles as the landlord in a film by Emily Hubley- fun, yes- but not the same.

"The Toe Tactic" has plenty of things like that for insiders.  The elevator operator who uses a Blackwing 602 to crib lyrics while on the job, the film's compositor in the more lucrative career as a bartender. 

When thinking about art, the number one question is "do I like it?".  There are a lot of admirable things in "The Toe Tactic", and it's likeable but its weaknesses -they're hard to get over.

The admirable.

First, the form is exciting.  The technique is in line with "Run, Lola, Run".   Emily Hubley's loose drawn animation cuts effectively against the live action.  It's an intrinsic excitement.

The animation itself is pretty nice.  The color line on white shots especially.  Emily Hubley's work is closer to her mother's films from the 80s than it is to her family's films of her childhood.  

The soundtrack, courtesy of sister Georgia's skiffle act "Yo La Tengo", is pretty good.  Suprising to me, as their work is typically less than the sum of their influences.  The music serves up the picture nicely, it's smart, witty and unobtrusive.

These things don't overcome the films basic shortcomings.  The form is solid, but the story structure is flawed.  The story itself is kind of a muck.   Key plot points are confusing or unclear.  Things come out as though they're revelations, but they're really just confusions.

While Ms. Hubley is very strong in short form storytelling, her particular skills are stretched in a film that purports to resemble a classical narrative.  

Short films allow for a lyricism that feature films do not.  Adults who've never met can hang out in a bar in a short film.

Feature films, unless a new reality is flawlessly created, need their players to behave like real humans.  In a film that tries to talk about relationships, relationships are portrayed like interactions between aliens (except the mom/daughter one which is smartly done).  Eyes Wide Shut does this, but who of us has the powers of Kubrick to will the unknowable to known on the silver screen?

Missed opportunities in films like this bother me a lot.  You're telling a story about people, observe how we behave.

A guy who just performed at an open mic is not going to run out after a girl without his guitar.   Now think of the difference between a guy running with a guitar and one running without.  With the guitar he's struggling a bit, he's making an effort, the power of every gesture he makes increases.

There's a compulsion amongst animators to make their films "bigger".   As much as I appreciate artists following their muse, I hope their future muses keep the work tight and to the point.


Elliot Cowan said...

Well if it's anything like Run, Lola, Run, then count me in...

roconnor said...

It's not really. They share the same form, but theyre polar opposites in terms of content and execution.