In a loop of desperate measures, Maia and her sick sister Emma find themselves backed into a corner. Standing in their way is Roger, a father with everything to lose. As the seconds tear away from them, each battle against the only thing that can save them. Time.
So reads the blurb for 8:47, a short film starring Lauren Birdsall, Shae Beadman and Roger Sciberras, written and directed by Nik Kacevski.
An Official Selection at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, and Hollyshorts Film Festival at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, 8:47, clocks in at a swift 12 minutes minus credits, however the film feels part of a bigger whole, a fantastic teaser for what could very easily translate into a feature length film. A feature length film however, not shot in one-take, a technique employed here by writer/director Nik Kacevski. The one-take aspect isn’t a gimmick as it really works to the films advantage, on visual and narrative levels, as well as showcasing the vision and talents of those involved.
It would be easy to focus on the one shot aspect of the film, and that would be remiss as there are some good ideas at work here, as I mentioned earlier, ideas that could be worked up into a feature film. The cast are solid, with special mention of Lauren Birdsall who carries the films emotional thread with genuine conviction. The cinematography is fantastic, the technicalities of the shoot must have been a pain to work through for all involved. Special mention must also go to the music and sound design which really help to keep the film moving and add to the feeling that we’re being dragged back and forth with Maia.
It’s difficult to say more about the film than the blurb, or comment on many aspects without giving it all away. Suffice to say that 8:47, is a film short on time but big in ambition. I look forward to seeing where these guys go next… Check out the trailer HERE and the official site HERE for more information about the film.
Almost exactly one year ago I posted some exciting news that Jim Jarmusch was planning to make a vampire movie with Tilda Swinton that would be a ‘crypto-vampire love story’. Well, he’s made it and by all accounts it’s amazing. Check out the Variety review from Cannes:
Did somebody make it a rule that every director has to do a vampire movie at some point? If so, Jim Jarmusch got the memo, and he tweaks the genre slightly in “Only Lovers Left Alive” to fit his own laid-back vibe, turning in a sweet but slight love story about world-weary hipster bloodsuckers. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston have empathic chemistry as the leads, and the pic (acquired by Sony Classics at Cannes) is a smidge more commercial than Jarmusch’s meandering previous effort, “The Limits of Control.” But it still feels like an in-joke intended only for select acolytes, who will probably love it with an undying passion.
The end credits mention Jarmusch’s longtime partner, Sara Driver, for “instigation and inspiration,” and indeed the film feels a bit like a quirky, fitfully touching love letter from one aging punk to another. Slightly upending the conventions of the vampire film (although there are precedents for this sort of reinvention), “Lovers” is a celebration of connubial bliss between two creatures who are still in love after centuries, but are out of step with the modern world. They’ve been there, done that, and ripped up the band T-shirts long ago to make cleaning rags for their awesome guitar collection.
Jarmusch’s characters tend to be either laconic, enigmatic ciphers or garrulous clowns, so it’s a surprise to hear what sounds like a clearly spelled-out author’s message for once, when Eve (Swinton) tries to cheer up her suicidal paramour, Adam (Hiddleston), by pointing out all the things in the world there are to live for, like “appreciating nature … kindness and dancing.”
Indeed, these are basically nice, hepcat vampires, deeply attractive despite their fried, undernourished-looking hair, and exquisitely unscary; they score blood from hospitals and almost never feast on live humans, which would be so 15th century. Hyper-sophisticated to the point of being sometimes irritatingly supercilious, they despair at the stupidity of humans, whom they call “zombies,” and congratulate themselves for all the great art they’ve made and the famous luminaries they hung out with, inspired and/or used as fronts to disseminate their own great masterworks (as in the case of Schubert and Shakespeare). It even turns out that Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), another vampire, really wrote Shakespeare’s plays; he’s still alive and well, living in Tangiers and hanging out with Eve as the film opens.
Adam and Eve (someone should have talked Jarmusch out of those names) are so secure in their relationship that they can spend long stretches of time apart on separate continents, like nuclear particles in Einstein’s theory of entanglement (which is explained in the dialogue), but still keep the connection between them alive. So while she’s in Tangiers, surrounded by a library of books in every language she loves, he’s in decrepit Detroit, making droning dirge rock on vintage recording equipment supplied by Ian (Anton Yelchin), a helpful human dealer in rare goods who’s unaware of Adam’s true nature.
Foreboding dreams about her sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) send Eve on a night flight to Detroit to be with her beloved. When Ava duly blows into town from Los Angeles, Adam and Eve grit their fangs and bear it, even though they have to hide their blood stash from this selfish, feckless houseguest and can’t leave her alone with their human friends.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” works best in this section, when it’s essentially a light comedy of social mores set among a bunch of bohemians whose drug of choice just happens to be human blood, rather than cocaine or heroin. The attempt to introduce a more tragic dimension in the final act falls flat, however; by this point, the film has run out of juice, not unlike its wan, exhausted protagonists.
Languid pacing makes the result feel longer than its two-hour running time, and although lenser Yorick Le Saux’s nighttime traveling shots of desolate Detroit cityscapes and Tangiers’ acrid backstreets have a bewitching beauty at first, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Likewise, Jarmusch brings the film to a stop too often to show off his taste in slightly recherche music from all over the world, even if the tracks will collectively make for an interesting soundtrack album.
Set in a dilapidated New Orleans during the 2008 Presidential campaign; low rent criminal Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) hires Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and his junkie friend Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) to rob a back-room card game run by Markie Traftman (Ray Liotta). Markie is known to have staged a robbery on one of his past games, so the assumption is that he’ll take the fall. Mob boss, Dillon (Sam Shepard) sends hit-man Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to sort out the mess.
Cogan meets with local mob representative Driver (Richard Jenkins) to discuss details and fees for the job. As Cogan is known to Amato, he brings in fellow hit-man Mickey (James Gandolfini) to take him out; Cogan will take out Frankie and Russell.
It’s a simple premise; however this film is anything but, it’s a dark, cynical, violent and blackly humorous tale. Australian director Andrew Dominik focuses on character, giving each of his cast room to breathe, and they reward him with uniformly excellent performances.
Pitt featured in Dominik’s previous film, the beautiful The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), one of my favourite films of the last decade. Ray Liotta is better than he’s been in years, Richard Jenkins and Ben Mendelsohn good, James Gandolfini is excellent as the wounded, self-pitying hit-man, drowning his pain in alcohol and prostitutes, his profane speeches about his sexual prowess and broken marriage are both heartbreaking and sad. However, Scoot McNairy steals every scene he’s in; he’s wonderful as the nervous, twitchy Frankie, his miss-placed optimism at odds with his constant agitation at his friends and situation.
For all the talk, and there’s a lot of fantastic dialogue, this is a very violent film. Ray Liotta is subjected to a brutal beating that is as far removed from glamorised violence as it can get, at odds with the stylised, super slo-mo shooting that follows, almost fetishistic gun porn.
The script, written by Dominik, is based on the 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade by the late crime author George V. Higgins. I haven’t read it, however, in updating the action from the 70’s to coincide with the final days of Obama’s race for the presidency is not lost on the audience. Obama’s speeches of hope and the potential of the United States are at odds with the story unfolding on screen, the economic collapse, the miserable fate of the underclass and the repetitive cycle of behaviour which keeps them there, there is no hope for these characters. Not exactly subtle delivery, Dominik ensures we get the message.
The film is shot in grimy, washed out tones, almost monochrome noir in a desolate, rain drenched New Orleans, as bleak and unwelcoming as the nameless city in David Fincher’s SE7EN.
This is muscular film-making; not for the faint hearted, but well worth a look, especially if you like your crime dramas of the hard-boiled variety.
Any Good: ****