Samstag, 30. August 2014

Venice Film Festival: 99 Homes / Réalité (Reality)

"99 Homes" is a somewhat timely dramatic thriller that has a decent start but slides downhill all the way to a reluctant, sappy ending. American writer/director Ramin Bahrani has a knack for pumping adrenalin into scenes of confrontation. In the excellent introductory sequence where the central character and his family get mercilessly evicted, he lets the tension play out, the dynamics change and the gravity sink in. With this one scene he drives home the horror of displacement and the deep psychological wound it leaves behind. This jolt of directorial grittiness seldom sees a replay though, as the rest of the film gradually settles into an insipid groove of predictability. The script should be commended for bringing attention to a very specific subject, even if that third act, where the naive young man inevitably gets seduced by materialism and turns corrupt, only to then inevitably redeem himself, can't be forgiven. Andrew Garfield's performance is flawed not only because he never looks like a construction worker with a school-age kid, but that he has yet to harness the subtlety of his physical expression like co-star Michael Shannon. The great Laura Dern is sadly underused.

I generally appreciate the particular brand of weird humor of French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux: not sinister or threatening like Lynch, nor extravagantly unrealistic like Gilliam, but more based on déjà-vu's, memory lapses, reveries... things of the everyday that could just seem benevolently wrong. However, in his latest film "Réalité (Reality)" he really lets himself get carried away, creating characters so immediately improbable in behavior and speech the whole thing quickly turns into a farce. It's certainly a doozy when the different narrative strains- a girl who finds a VHS tape in the innards of a hog, a man searching for the best groan in history, a young guy troubled by invisible rashes- end up connected in one big multi-dimensional plot, but when every trick in the surreality genre from doppelgänger to dream within a dream is employed to confuse and distract the audience, one must ask if there's anything substantial at all behind a could of hot, muddled air. The cinematography is appropriately, creepily pristine. Acting-wise nothing noteworthy, as none of the actors has a meaningful character arc to work with.

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