Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Kid With Broken Compliance

     In this set of DVD reviews we review an Oscar nominated documentary, the latest from the French Dardenne brothers and a creepy little drama that is one of 2012's great hidden gems.  Warning: This is a very strong set of films!!! Disclaimer: They are ALL currently available on Netflix Instant Play!!! Let's get hoppin...

  Compliance - In a year where so many of the big studio, traditional "Oscar bait" films have actually lived up to the hype, I confess that I have felt a yearning for some of the quirky, "little film" excellence of the 2011 film season.  Where are this year's Melancholia, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Tyrannosaur & Take Shelter?  I must say, after seeing writer/director Craig Zobel's little hidden gem Compliance, I feel like I have gotten my fix for a minute.
     Compliance is the sort of twisted, uncomfortable narrative that I would deduct points from for improbability, were it not based on a true story.  Every time that you think the story has reached the apex of wrongness, it warps a little harder.  I was physically tense while watching this movie.  It hurt a little bit.
     The picture is full of spot-on performances.  Ann Dowd (who won Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of review for Compliance and was nominated for a Critics Choice award) is the inarguable stand out as Sandra the fast food restaurant manager who becomes involved in a crime when she receives a call from Officer Daniels, played to eerie perfection by Pat Healy.  Dreama Walker, Philip Ettinger, and Ashlie Atkinson perform more than admirably as the restaurant staff and Bill Camp is truly inspired as Sandra's boyfriend Van.
     I don't want to give away too much, but Compliance is a study of the phenomenon sociologists refer to as "trained incapacity" (or at least they did when I took Sociology).  The term refers to how people (especially in structured, corporate style environments) become so focused upon the checklist of behaviors and procedures that they have been conditioned to remain in "compliance" with, that they are unable to think for themselves or do anything besides follow directions when faced with authority.  I have not seen any of Craig Zobel's previous work, but this insightful, riveting piece has me anxiously awaiting his next project...5 of 5 stars.

  5 Broken Cameras - One of the great things about documentary film making is that it is one of those art forms that occasionally occurs completely organically.  Someone sees something worth documenting in the world around them, picks up a camera, and before you know it they have accumulated footage that begins to tell a story.  If they are lucky, as first time film maker Emad Burnat was, they meet someone (like co-director Guy Davidi) who has already made a documentary and can help them finish the film and get it seen.  This is the highly warranted success story of 5 Broken Cameras.
      The film chronicles the slow incursion into Burnat's native Palestinian village by Israeli settlers, the passive resistance that he becomes a central figure in, and how the resistance is met.  The story is structured by what occurred during the life span of each of five cameras, recording a part of the story before being destroyed in the context of the tale they are telling.  The chronology of the film is also punctuated by the progression through early childhood of his youngest son, born in the picture's first scene.
     5 Broken Cameras is touching, informative, and told with very little agenda but much passion. It is also a telling first person look into a part of the world about which we in the West are given little true insight.  I can make no argument against its inclusion in this past season's list of Oscar nominees, and highly recommend checking it out.  4 1/2 of 5 stars.

  The Kid With The Bike - The French Dardenne brothers have been a small sensation on the international film circuit for several years now, but I regret to admit that The Kid With the Bike is the first of their films that I have seen.  It will not be the last.  It is typical of the sort of excellent drama about normal, everyday people with real world problems that the European cinema seems to handle so much more maturely than American films in the twenty-first century.  It addresses child abandonment, delinquency, and the meaning of family without every devolving into melodrama or coming across as a "message movie".
     The acting in this film is also excellent.  The cast never "pushes" for emotion, simply inhabiting the characters in a realistic manner and letting the story tell itself.  I went into the film expecting great things from the talented Cecile de France, already an admirer of her work in the two  marvelous "Mesrine" films.  She did not disappoint me at all, delivering another fine performance in a totally different sort of role.  Her thunder is stolen a LITTLE, however, by the film's young star Thomas Doret who has one hell of a debut as Cyril, the kid in "Kid".  This young actor had to portray great and disparate extremes of emotion in a film that sought to avoid histrionics of any kind.  He handled it like a much more seasoned performer would, giving us all of Cyril's hurt and frustration while perfectly maintaining the tone of his scenes.
     All in all, this is a professionally put together piece of movie making that manages to emphasize story and character above spectacle yet remains completely engaging.  The central characters are easy to relate to and care about.  Now I see the point of all the Dardenne-mania...4 1/2 of 5 stars.

Related Articles: Beautiful Melancholy Conspirator (Melancholia review), We Need To Interrupt Miss Bala (We Need To Talk About Kevin review), Edgar, the Mysterious Tyrant (Tyrannosaur review), Senna, Take 13 (Take Shelter review)

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