July 20, 2010

Film Fest: Day Three

Coming in to the Embassy in the morning to start my first ushering shift there, there’s even more good news! So, while the Paramount was initially missing a row of seats, at the Embassy there had been a bit of a ticketing snafu. A misallocation of available seating resources, if you will. For a brief period of time, the front three rows had been selling first. For those who don’t know: the front three rows at the Embassy are terrible – you are literally metres from the giant screen (although, some people dig that). This meant that some people who had booked their tickets nice and early ended up in the worst seats in the house. Thankfully, we managed to find everyone better seats in the theatre, and everyone was very appreciative for this rather busy Sunday morning session. Fun times.

Inside Job
This was shown on DigiBeta (as it’s apparently a work in progress), which I had never seen at the Embassy before, and was surprised that it actually looked really, really good. Almost (almost) indistinguishable from film to the lay person. Which is good, because this was a very slick, very well-made documentary on the ole’ GFC – global financial collapse.
Inside Job joins recent other documentaries like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room in detailing the corrupt, unregulated financial sector in the U.S. helping to explain something that, from the outside, is a huge tangled mass of confusion. And like these (and Taxi to the Dark Side and Standard Operating Procedure) the director Charles Ferguson has gained access to a vast array of the people and information involved; tracking down the architects of this fustercluck and going after them without mercy. He lays out exactly how we got to where we are now, and the warning signs that were not heeded. From the blatantly illegal mergers, an explanation of the sub-prime mortgages to the explosion in derivatives trading – essentially gambling, but on a grand scale – all are illustrated with devastating clarity. He even scores interviews with some of the men (and they are, all, men) working for President Bush and various Government Departments (Treasury, Federal Reserve) before the crash. It’s immensely enjoyable to watch these guys on camera, squirming, getting angry and trying to weasel their way out of responsibility.
Having said that, the film does not take an “anti-Bush” and “pro-Obama” stand, as under the Obama Administration things have pretty much stayed the same. The same men who worked at deregulating the industry, and who lead the financial world to where it is now, are back. Back in Government positions, once again helping to ensure the rich get richer and the poor get fucked.
Inside Job is an example of what I think of as the new political cinema – well made, intelligent documentaries on massive subjects. A world away from Michael Moore’s brand of gonzo documentaries, running up to Wall Street traders with an empty money sack. Ferguson instead asks questions, provides some answers and calls people to action.

Ne Change Rien
I tried with this film, I really did. I’ll be upfront: I’m no particular fan of long-take slow cinema, but I’m willing to give anything a try, and different story-telling methods work for different tales. However, I found this documentary to be interminable. A doco on the recording of an album (one track in particular) it showed that recording music is much the same as being on a film set – repetitious, frustrating and boring. Or rather, much like this film. The whole thing seemed rather oblique – the camera being plonked seemingly at random, with most scenes being very dark. As in, poorly lit. These musicians were almost recording by candlelight.
And that’s it. That’s all I want to say about this film: repetitious, frustrating and boring.

The Housemaid
A well constructed, finely acted melodrama I really felt neither way one nor the other about this in the end.
It follows a young poor woman in Seoul (so poor, she not only shares a room with her best friend, she shares a bed too) who is offered the opportunity to be a housemaid and nanny to a wealthy family. She is approached by the elder housemaid, the one who has been with the family for years. There is the pretty young wife, heavily pregnant with twins, the highly intelligent daughter, and the businessman husband.
So, she gets along fine with the daughter and is learning the ropes around the household with some cold help from the older maid. Then she has it off with the master (in a couple of pretty steamy sex scenes. Rowr) of the household and gets knocked up. The wife’s mother finds out and tries to knock the maid off. When that fails her and her daughter plot and scheme the maid’s abortion. They’re a bit of a dark, scary family really.
It all ticks along quite nicely exploring the hidden darkness in wealthy families, goes a bit bonkers in the final couple of minutes, and then finishes.
I almost wish I’d gone to see The Loved Ones down the road instead, but I do love me some South Korean cinema. And it’s not like The Housemaid was bad, far from it. It was good (the cinematography particularly sumptuous), not great. I just didn’t really engage with it.

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