It seemed like this was set to be a real actor's film, with bare bone performances form the likes of Jude Law, Judi Dench, Steve Buscemi, Simon Abkarian, John Leguizamo, David Oyelowo, Dianne Wiest, Eddie Izzard and the model turned actress, Lilly Cole. Pulled from the web episodic format and released on the DVD as one complete film, the DVD also contains a few extras to make the offering more attractive.
We are led to the story by the person behind the camera, a camera which is supposed to be a mobile phone camera but is clearly more like a digital high-definition camera. However that's beneficial for the film and shouldn't be an issue, even for those who are nitpicking, for the performances are much better for being scrutinised over every detail.
The person behind the camera has decided to film the event for his local school project, or so he says to the organisers who give him the permission, actually what it appears he is doing is placing the footage online for all to see.
His filming lasts four days, and while on the first day we are introduced to the characters and led to understand them to a degree, it's on the second day that the story really begins. An accident occurs on set and the characters are set in disarray, of course the show must, and does, go on, but some of the characters are quite affected by it and talk about openly about their feelings.
The next day another tragic even happens, an accident or perhaps murder of one of the models, the police are called adding a new character to the fray, and some important questions to be answered.
The core of this film is the script, the characters and the acting, for there's nothing else to it apart from the performance. The filming never turns away from the actors to look at the events around them. It's all about the performance, and with the camera focused solely on each of them there’s nowhere else for them to hide. As a result the cast is made of strong actors, those who can pull off a character part with no gimmicks.
For me the performance from Jude Law is the best, He plays a male model and fashion icon who adopts a female persona for all of his appearances, a persona that he controls and uses to make him become something very different, Minx. He gives an amazing performance and I imagine that he leapt at the chance to play the character. To be honest it’s a complete surprise to find out it’s him and when he first speaks in his own voice it’s a revelation.
Simon Abkarian, as the fashion designer is good, but for me it does seem that he’s used in the wrong places. His character is core to the events that are happening at the show and around us, and yet we hear little from him when we should be hearing him explain some of what’s behind the events themselves.
It's something that remains largely unresolved and we find that come the end of the film there's not a lot of understanding of what happened or why, just that it did. However odd that is and frustrating for the audience, the film is not meant to be about those events, it’s about the characters and the actors performances. As frustrating as it may be at times to do anything but watch these characters against their green screen, it does focus your attention on the characters, their stories, and how they tell them.
It was one aspect of the film that I struggled with, the constant focus of the camera on the subject and the green screen. At no point was there even the slightest desire to turn the camera on the events that seemed to be happening nearby, instead it remained steadfastly fixed on the subject. Now I could understand that if it were meant to be a locked off camera, one sitting on a tripod, but the ongoing style leads us to believe that the student is using a mobile and never once flinches or turns to the action, even when the action is hugely attention grabbing.
It’s not just the fact that the young guy behind the camera never flinches, but those in front of the camera don’t seem that concentrated on heading to the action to either satisfy their curiosity or to try and help, at some points it seems cold, callous and extremely disconnected.
I did struggle with all of that, but the characters and the performances keep you engaged to the screen for the most part, and someone else that does that well is Judi Dench.
Her performance drew my eye constantly, her dry, sharp, sarcasm and wit forced me towards the character and it seemed even the smallest of mannerisms were used in her performance. That's something that is true for Law's performance too.
While the performances are strong and you are engaged watching the actors develop their characters through straight performance, I found that the story lacked enough to keep me beyond a few actors, and during weaker moments I struggled to stay focused on the film.
I do think that it could have benefited from a stronger look to the story itself, something to show that there was a progression on the investigation and perhaps the drawing towards some conclusion. However none of that comes, and I did find myself getting bored watching a character talking about these events that I was clearly never going to see or even understand.
So I ended up with a film that raised a lot of questions and never answered or addressed any of them.
Dolby Digital 5.1
There's not a great deal to say about the audio considering the entire film is just one to one interviews with the camera pointing directly at the interviewee. However ambient sound from behind is often made use of and provides for a tiny bit more depth and context during some of the show scenes. Saying that, it would have been nice if the ambient sound was a little more elevated and the depth feeling it should create is damaged by the fact that no one in the film reacts to the noise anyway other than a glance or a look.
The picture is sharp with bright and bold costume and backdrop colours that look very good upscaled on the PlayStation 3.
Deleted Scenes, Interview with Director Sally Potter
Deleted Scenes: There are tons of deleted scenes for just about all of the characters, over twenty minutes worth. As I always do I watched all of them and it's clear why they are deleted scenes. They may add a little extra to the telling of the story and of the characters, but there's nothing in here worth being included in the film that wouldn't just draw it out more and take rather than give to the film. That said, the more we see of Jude Law's Minx character the better, for it is a great character and a great performance.
Interview with Director Sally Potter:
The interview is pretty interesting as the director talks about the film, about the stylistic choices and some of the challenges in making it and getting the performances from the actors.
The film is an interesting one and takes the best performances from some very strong actors and presents them on screen. However there is a real lack of a cohesive story, and even hearing it second hand from the characters themselves left me wanting for something more to come of it.
Jude Law and Judi Dench were superb as their characters, Law in particular, and when he is on screen I felt myself riveted by his performance.
However it does need something a lot stronger in the script and the story, a turn to the action, a little more freedom in the camera, a little more reality, and above all some answers, not just questions.