Focusing on the tension and ego-based disagreements that exist behind the façade of a new play’s opening is an interesting premise brimming with potential amusement and cleverly constructed inside jokes delivered with a knowing nod to the audience. Unfortunately Play: the Film, from first-time feature director Alec Toller, never really harnesses this humour. What’s left is an array of stereotypes and caricatures with more annoying mannerisms than entertaining quirks.
Browsing: Canadian Film Festival 2014
Anyone who has ever studied English Literature or Media Studies will have encountered the idea that there are only 7 archetypal stories – such as Overcoming The Monster, The Quest or The Tragedy. A huge number of films and narratives are also derived from classic fairy tales and myths, but this is usually implicit or unintentional.
Sometimes a film tries to explicitly update ancient stories. This can be clever and covert like O Brother Where Art Thou? (Homer’s Odyssey) or Terminator 2 (Rumplestiltskin); or really contrived like Brother’s Grimm. Conventional wisdom would suggest that hiding a classic narrative within a modern plot is normally more creative that an overt remake. However a new film from Danishka Esterhazy bucks this trend with truly disturbing results.
Do birds have teeth? That’s the kind of casual mental wandering provoked by the tedium of The Birder, a movie every bit as mild-mannered as the separated ornithologist whose passing-over for a promotion provides the plot its decidedly immobile momentum. It’s about as captivating a presence too. Ted Bezaire’s sophomore feature is stupendously staid, milquetoast to match its protagonist and almost impossible to entertain in the mind for more than a moment past the closing credits. Indeed it’s a wonder they managed to make it at all; here is a film so resolutely rote in every aspect it’s odd that they didn’t just forget to make it. Birds don’t have teeth, by the way. Nor does this movie.
Whether it means to or not, Patch Town does well to invoke the history of cinema in an opening credits cut from old-style newsreel to lacking new-age digital effects. Here is a film that doesn’t want for forebears yet feels quite unlike anything else, a movie that’s made with feet in the past and eyes on the future, its arms wrapped round the present like it wants it all to itself. If ever Craig Goodwill’s comic fantasy were to have a moment, it would be now, if only because it’s a production of audacious immediacy, an energy and enthusiasm that can’t but attract attention. It is loud, it is proud, and it’s as much a daft delight for that as a wearying waste.