Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Trail's Movie [Making] Corner

In my high school, as in most high schools I'd think, there was a kid who made movies. Dan was the son of the shop teacher, who drove one of those wood-paneled station wagons that were being phased out in the mid-90s. He wasn't a popular kid, but he wasn't like the proto-emo kid who four days a week was blonde haired, then on Thursdays dyed his hair black and spiked it out Robert Smith style.

Aside: On a trip back to my parents' place, on a nostalgic dig through some artifacts of my youth, I came across a list of outbursts that kid had in grade eleven French class, that he would make when he couldn't take anymore, and we jotted down because they were so laughable to us. In this post-Columbine world...well, let's just say if there was a 'most likey' at my high school.....

Anyway, the first movie I remember Dan making was about a pair of homeless guys who find a duffle bag full of money. Chaos and hilarity ensue. Most of the filming was done the summer going into grade twelve, so I wasn't privy to most of the developments. It was only after classes recommenced that I learned the climactic scene was going to be filmed at the Navy Yard in Amherstburg that weekend, and a crowd was needed. So I headed down with a bunch of my classmates from across the popularity spectrum, and we stood huddled together to look like a sea of people as a classmate of mine [who did some work for the Star as a photographer] pretended to get shot by having fireworks taped to ketchup packets taped to a piece of plywood on his chest. It was amazing.

I was thinking about those days a lot as I watched Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind tonight. I knew going in that the movie split the critics' opinions, specifically over one key moment: the suspension of disbelief required to believe that the entire town of Passaic, New Jersey would enjoy Jack Black and Mos Def's 'Sweded' remakes and want to be a part of them. Some reviewers weren't able to get behind that idea. Me, remembering that day when I threw on a Hawaiian shirt and a Goofy hat [not an adjective, the hat looked like the dog from the Disney cartoons. I think I was creating a character of some kind], standing next to one of the most popular girls at school, and no one cared because we all wanted to make it happen so we could watch ourselves when we were done, I could totally believe it.

I also enjoyed the movie because it's essentially a love letter to the remix culture that I've so openly supported here before. The closest thing to a villain in the film is a cameo by Sigourney Weaver as a Hollywood studio lawyer who confiscates and destroys all the remakes under copyright violations. Gondry never takes the dialogue farther than that, perhaps trying to suggest to the audience that creating your own movies is better than remaking those done before, but it's clear the value of the remix [and the pirate] isn't lost on Gondry.

What's interesting is that while the movie seems to embrace the culture that's come to prominence in the web 2.0/digital era, it does so using stubbornly analog technology. VHS tapes, no computers, no visual effects: just found equipment and ingenuity. I'm not going to argue which aesthetic is superior, I just found the juxtaposition interesting.

Not for everyone, Gondry's flicks usually aren't, but I for one enjoyed it. It took me back to a fun time in my life, and makes me regret the fact that Dan never finished his sequel starring those two homeless guys. I moved up to a speaking role, as a nudist cab driver.


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