The Opinion Engine 2.0:
Challenging cinema.

Warning. Contains spoilers. I talk about the ending of the first two films highlighted. Do not read you haven't watched. Please. Thank you.

One of my theories is that in most circumstances comedies should be half an hour, dramas ideally two and Never Let Me Go was a perfect subversion of that. Over and over on-line and in some professional reviews, I’ve seen criticism that the film lacks a resolution, no third act, has an abrupt ending. Even not having read any of this before “going in” (if that’s possible with the a dvd) I understood that cleverly, as the characters reach their premature end, that is also being illustrated in the structure of the film, that the story is being purposefully denied its extra half hour. Rather like the metafictional games at the heart of Charlie Kauffman’s script for Adaptation, it trusts that the audience will understand the approach being taken, the point being made. Sadly too few people did.

The brave sport film structure of Scott Pilgrim vs The World also experiments with the audience’s ability to deal with narrative structure and the understanding of character development, almost including the alternative ending bonus feature from dvd in the actual film. The dvd of course does itself have alternative ending bonus feature and it’s a rare example of the one in the actual film being the correct choice. Like everyone else I became slightly obsessed with Ramona Flowers who seems to encapsulate every unapproachable cool girl but having tested the audience’s patience, it was inconceivable that there wouldn’t the potentiality for Scott not to be with her, allowing Knives to retain her independence.

Other films employed the production techniques of documentary to produce genre based efforts. In Monsters, like Inception last year (thanks to the way I watch movies via the home release schedule, there is a general blurring of what constitutes my cinematic year which is why this and Pilgrim have rolled over), Gareth Edwards melded the art house imperative with Hollywood concerns, in this case the loose plotting of the new wave with an alien invasion film. If you’re asking where the Monsters are, you’ve missed the point. But it’s still fairly ballsy to take your actors on a road trip, film their interactions with the locals and the landscape and hope that you have enough footage to produce a coherent story, let alone something in a genre which demands certain satisfactions.

Burlesque was a guilty pleasure, this year’s Coyote Ugly, but On Tour makes the list instead because (a) it’s actually about burlesque and (b) we’re never entirely sure what was scripted or improvised. Like Edwards, I understand that actor/director Mathieu Amalric took some mainly real American burlesque performers on a tour of the French coast filming very real shows then worked them around a narrative about his aging producer attempting to rekindle past glories but taken advantage of by his old friends. Many of the scenes are improvised and like Monsters we’re never entirely sure what was scripted or staged, and how much of the jeopardy is as a result of events over taking themselves in production.

But hands down the most startling image was in the documentary Gasland in which our perception of reality was bent by footage of actuality. An investigation into the potential risks of hydraulic fracking to the health of people and their communities, writer/director Josh Fox knows that his entire story is encapsulated in a single moment, when one of the participants sets light to their drinking water, flames shooting out from the one elemental place it shouldn’t. Over and over we’re greeted by this image and it’s scarier than a dozen horror films. Fracking is due to be carried out soon in Cheshire but as Fox’s film demonstrates, since the science is being wilfully submerged thanks to confidentiality, corporations are allowed to wilfully deny responsibility for ensuing health problems.

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