Faithless (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Holy Smoke! When did every director decide to be Kurosawa?
Tuna pointed out not too long ago that it seems like every film we watch these days seems to have the story retold again and again from multiple points of view. There weren't many of these for a while, maybe Body Shots, but now I've seen four in the last week or so: One Night at McCool's, Tick Tock, About Adam and Faithless.
It isn't derivative of Lola Rennt. For one thing, Lola Rennt doesn't tell a story over again from a different point of view. It iterates and reiterates a story showing how a different choice at one point could affect subsequent events and the outcome. Furthermore, Lola Rennt has the additional hook of being re-enacted in real time, so that the movie is actually three times longer than the events it portrays. All pretty cool, innovative stuff.
This latest rash of films tends to show either multiple points of view or multiple bits of information. In fact, each of these movies has a slightly different take on it.
In About Adam, when viewing one scene knowing only what one sister knew, we could not see or imagine the other sister hiding behind a car, for example, until we got to the other sister's version of the story. That film didn't try to alter the portrayal of the same characters or events in each retelling. Instead, it just wouldn't let the audience know anything that the current POV didn't know.
Tick Tock used almost exactly the same device as About Adam, but used it to good effect in developing a mystery thriller. In the first version, we were missing essential ingredients not known to that character. It was a clever device, because it was a multiple double-cross, and not every character was in on every plot. Some characters were only allowed to participate in crimes that were decoys for the main crimes, so their perspective was radically different. Again, the characters didn't really change any from version to version.
One Night at McCool's went about it in a completely different way. It retold the stories from highly biased and prejudical subjective perspectives. Therefore, Liv Tyler was supposed to be a sharply different character in each guy's version. Matt Dillon was quite funny, portraying himself in his own version as a solid candidate for sainthood, but acting in the other guys' versions as if he were a combination of Hitler and Foster Brooks. The other guys' versions were clouded by the fact that Matt had the girl and they wanted her.
|This beings us to Faithless, which has much more in common to Roshomon than the other three recent films, in that it is a serious film which uses the retelling of the story to show us far more about the narrator than the story itself.||
| It's a bit confusing
at first, because it's not entirely clear what is going on. We don't
know that the story is being narrated except for an opening word slide
that says the name of the person whose POV frames that section. We
start with Lars, a great guy who picks up a woman in a bar, is
overwhelmed by her sexual aggressiveness, and wakes up the next
morning to confront her ex-husband from hell. Turns out the ex-hubby
is a cop, and does things like pulling Lars over and sticking a gun in
his mouth. It also turns out that he's not an ex-husband, but in fact
Then we start over again with a word slide that says "Morgan", and husband's side of the story, in which version he is a sweet misunderstood guy being manipulated by a scheming woman and a predatory new boyfriend. It takes a while before we see that there has been a POV change, because there is no obvious device to indicate that has happened. There is no detective interviewing them about the incident, for example. Then we see her version. In all three versions, there are some clearly psychotic things being done - hate words painted on the wall, etc. It is not until the end that we are able to see which version is the truth, and which of them is the psychotic.
It turns out that two of the versions were a bit off, simply because everyone is subjective and distorts objective reality. The third version was way off because the narrator was completely psychotic. It's all too obvious, I'm afraid, which was which, based on both the plot points and the convention employed.
From the plot, we can see that the new boyfriend was a 40ish guy hanging around in bars trying to pick up chicks for a one night stand. While this is not evidence of insanity, by any means, it doesn't quite square with the wholesome image of himself he tries to paint.
From a convention standpoint, obviously these mystery movies all try to misdirect us, like a magician. There is no misdirection if the magician actually does what he says he's doing. Since it is a mystery, the first point of view is likely to be the least truthful, and the basis for the misdirection.
It sounds pretty good on paper, doesn't it? Well, it isn't bad but, unfortunately, this director is not Kurosawa. He couldn't let the story tell itself. It's all mucked up with meaningful glances, pregnant pauses, oblique camera angles, and comic book lighting (man, this guy loves that primary red and blue lighting). It's a cross between Michael Mann and German Expressionism, and it really has a heavy-handed artiness that kept me at a great distance from involvement, especially since it takes itself 100% seriously 100% of the time, both in the plot points and in the presentation style. As a good example, there are many shots of clocks, and it is always 10:12.
The 10:12 is a reference, I believe, to the New Testament book of Mark, 10:12. "And if a woman shall put away her husband and be with another, she committeth adultery". Can you say "precious", kids?
There is also a consistency problem. The woman's POV continues after her death. I believe the dictionary definition of death is "the end of one's point of view". The epilogue should have been part of the boyfriend's POV, but couldn't be because he had to lead off to provide misdirection.
The best part of the film for me was the Spanish subtitles, which provided the only humor, albeit intentional. They were obviously done by someone who didn't understand the English. I'm not exactly Cervantes, so for every Spanish gaffe I spotted, there must be many more that slipped by me.
Here's another tip for you youngsters. If you want to become a translator, it's helpful to know both languages.
But I'll say this: this flick gives you no shortage of nudity, employs impressive photography, is something off the beaten path, and the director tried to break away from familiar filmmaking. That may please some of you more than it pleased me. This film received some recognition for its outstanding cinematography in the Canadian Genie awards, but the dark, bare-bones, 4:3 DVD didn't advance my appreciation any, even though I could that see the potential was there. It is a shame to release a film like this in a dark, pan 'n scan version
Although this wasn't one of my all-time favorite viewing experiences, the IMDb score is too low. I'd say that this director (Raul Sanchez Inglis) is going to make good movies. If he loses some of the the artiness and self-importance, he may make brilliant movies, which is what happened to Atom Egoyan when he learned that substance and human emotions were as important as or more important than style and structure.
Inglis will make good movies. This one may not be that good, but it gives off the aroma of talent.
I have a Labrador Retriever who will lick anything that smells of food. I also have a greyhound-type mutt who will ignore anything without substance. My Lab would like this movie, the greyhound would not. This one isn't real food, just the scent of food.
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