Saturday, February 23, 2008

Be Kind Rewind (review...not really)

In thinking about Be Kind Rewind, the new Mos Def/Jack Black comedy, I find myself in a conundrum. I loved the film's premise. I liked the visuals. And I adored the emotional resonance director Michel Gondry found in the amateurish, homemade film making. But the movie itself was overlong and narratively confused, often unfunny, and pretty boring. Thumbs in the middle, I guess?

Anyone familiar with my -- ahem -- "filmography" might see some similarities in the mini-movies found in Be Kind. Imagine if we'd shot Atom Smashers 3: The Return of the Noble Gas in its entirety, with a straight face: that's what happens to several classic films here, as a ludicrous accident wipes out the entire library of a small video store and its proprietors are forced to make their own stock to appease their customers. Those customers, of course, love the charming remakes, and more movies are demanded.

And it's important to that emotional resonance to understand why they love the remakes. It's not that they're too stupid to see the difference between them and Hollywood films, or that Hollywood films are so awful that the difference is minimal -- Gondry thankfully avoids either of those missteps. And it certainly isn't because they manage to duplicate the technical wizardry of the originals. The "swedes" (their term for the remakes) are enjoyable precisely because they lack that technical wizardry -- the lack of skill and resources make the film making process itself undeniably fun. And as the swedes grow more popular, and more and more people from the community join in to make them, the films become intensely communal. Their enjoyment is only partly from the film itself -- the rest is reminiscing on the fun one had making it. And that's the part of Be Kind Rewind that got to me.

Yes, I still think Shades 0 is funny on its own...but I really love it because of how much fun it was to shoot. I could describe "Sixteenth Specimen" as "rancid, incompetent crap" (and would be generous in doing so), but I still love watching it. I still have a video of a "wrestling" match between Stephen and me that I could watch for days -- you think because of the skillful wrestling? Hardly. In its sweded mini-movies, Be Kind Rewind celebrates the very art of filmmaking, and how much fun the simple act of, well, acting can be.

Which filled me with joy, and nostalgia. And, well, guilt. I thought of the movies we made -- and of the movies we didn't make. There were lots and lots of ideas, of course. But none of them got off the ground because My steadfast insistence on quality and competence. And why? I mean, it's not like Exposure (who remembers Exposure? anyone?) was going to Sundance. We weren't competing for friggin' Oscars here -- I tricked myself into thinking I was Orson Welles and gave up on too many ideas simply because they wouldn't have been perfect.

Unfortunately, the actual movie of Be Kind Rewind isn't that successful. It takes far too long to get to its point, and the rest of it is weighed down by a hokey plot ripped off from, oh, I don't know, forty movies off the top of my head ("If we don't raise [amount of money] by [arbitrary deadline], the city is going to demolish our old but charming building that has important historical relevance to the community!"). But I'll be damned if the final scene isn't a wonder, as the entire town gathers to watch the final sweded film -- an original, no less, finished mere moments before screening.

That's not much a review, I know. But, honestly, Be Kind Rewind isn't that much of a movie. I certainly don't recommend anyone actually go out and see it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think it's been too long since I've watched Shades 0 again.

Now playing: Oasis - D'You Know What I Mean?
via FoxyTunes


  1. Vacant Studios.
    Ah yes. Making movies can be fun. Shades 0 certainly was. Burned was fun in its own way, a more hectic let's see just how fast we can get this footage in the can sort of way. I wrote the closing theme in less than an hour, a feat I've never again replicated for another of my pieces. And Lehman kept fucking up that long quote (that we fucked up in telling him). And I kept fucking up that scene, which is added at the end for posterity. My crotch will live forever on YouTube now. /flex

    Ah, the joys of the scriptless endeavor and zero budget film making.

    Exposure? That the one about the house and the Polaroid? Yeah, we still can't make that work if that's the one I'm thinking of.

    Everyone's too damned busy to make movies, it seems. That and we don't have the talent to get through some of the ideas in any passable manner, sweded or not.

    Also, I did want a producer credit on Burned, ass.

  2. "My crotch will live forever on YouTube" is one of the funniest sentences I've ever read in my life.