Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Perks of Being Samsara's Impostor

     In this trip around the fairgrounds, we will be exploring one of the best films largely overlooked during the 2012 awards season, as well as two documentaries: one about who mankind as a whole really is and another about a boy who that isn't at all what he seems.  And with a flick of my tongue...

  Perks of Being a Wallflower - Here at The Movie Frog, we love it when something excellent comes from the unlikeliest of sources: a drama about high school students who feel like misfits, for example.  Writer/director Stephen Chbosky's debut film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is just such a something.  He adapted his film from his own acclaimed novel of the same title, and it is a beautifully written story that translates so well to film that I can't help but wonder if he originally penned it with the idea in mind.  There is nothing trite about Perks, and nothing cliched, save the fact that it is a movie about high school outcasts, of course.
      As good as the story is, this film would never have worked without the trio of young actors at its core (and some able assistance from the adult supporting cast, particularly Dylan McDermott and Paul Rudd .
He's come a long way since Percy Jackson, and young actor Logan Lerman shows remarkable potential as Charlie, the freshman at the center of this piece.  Lerman delivers one of the most sincere performances I've ever seen.  Charlie is a very troubled young man, but is also portrayed with great innocence and intelligence.  Emma Watson blew me away as Sam, the older girl (senior) that Charlie falls for.  There is this scene where she stands up in the back of a truck as it drives through a tunnel that is more magical any spell she cast in her younger days.  Even her accent work is impressive.  Only once or twice did I catch even the slightest hint of British vowels and I was listening hard for them.  I am soooo glad to see Ezra Miller play a sympathetic role, easily proving as Sam's step-brother Patrick that he can be just as lovable as he was despicable in We Need To Talk About Kevin, or obnoxious in Another Happy Day.
          All three of these characters have had really difficult lives in their own ways and I don't mean because someone stole their lunch money.  They are not easy stereotypes and it takes time to figure out what's really going on with them.  In short, the are portrayed as real teen age individuals, one of the most endangered species on the planet (at least, when I was that age).  They reminded me of the people I hung out with in high school in a way that nocharacters of a film in this sub-genre ever have before.  I REALLY hope that "Perks" serves as a career launch for Chbosky and Lurman, and a major career bump for Miller and Watson.  They all deserve it...5 out of 5 stars.

  The Impostor - This is the debut feature film from documentarian Bart Layton, whose previous work has mostly been in television.  In it, he tells the story of a 22 year old homeless Frenchman who perpetrates a masquerade that he is actually a 16 year old boy from Texas who had disappeared years earlier.  Layton should be proud of the work he has done in The Impostor, as he has produced a captivating picture that indicates much promise for his future endeavors.
     It is told in a combination of interviews with the actual people involved and re-enactments of the events using actors to portray them.  The scripted bits bothered me a little, as I felt that they undermined the veracity essential to the documentary genre.  On the other hand, in the absence of much actual footage of the scenes being relayed, they did help to enhance the suspense of the film.  One also gets a strong enough sense of who the players REALLY are in the interviews, that the viewer leaves the picture feeling that they know as much of the true story as can be known.
      Overall, The Imposter is a good first film that tells a story with a lot of sinister twists and turns that I'm not going to reveal too much more about because it would actually ruin the viewing experience to know.  I found the story utterly implausible, but its hard to fault the movie for this when it is telling a true story...4 of 5 stars.

  Samsara - Director and cinematographer Ron Fricke is best known for the documentary Baraka, which I have never seen, but is very highly regarded.  It appears to have been composed very similarly to Samsara, both consisting entirely of images with no spoken words whatsoever.  Baraka was apparently a visual survey of spirituality and religion across planet Earth.  The word Samsara means the cycle of birth, life, death, and re-birth central to religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism.  The film does a very good job of representing this concept, again on a world wide scale.
     The picture reportedly took five years to film and edit, and it is easy to believe.  The images are striking, beautiful & diverse.  Traditional Chinese dancers are juxtaposed with sprawling city scapes, desolated natural disaster sites, baptisms and recycling plants.  Some of the images are so beautiful that it is difficult to believe that you are looking at real places and the scenes are ordered and spliced together to marvelous effect by Fricke and co-editor Mark Magidson (who also collaborated with the director on the concept and treatment).
     If I have one complaint about Samsara it would be that the score from composers Marcello De Francisci, Lisa Gerrard & Michael Stearns is a little TOO calm and lilting.  At an hour and forty-seven minutes with no dialogue, a little more musical variety in style and tempo would have been a balm to the attention span.  Otherwise, the film is an incredibly impressive and elaborate endeavor...4 1/2 of 5 stars.

  Related posts:  We Need To Interrupt Miss Bala (We Need To Talk About Kevin review), Happy Uncle Beaver (Another Happy Day review)

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