One thing that no one tells you about directing your first feature (or at least, one thing that no one told me) is that it will destroy your ability to enjoy watching films. For the last month, whenever I've tried to watch films I've done nothing but think about things like headroom, continuity of lighting, and whether the focus is sharp. As a result of this I've hardly been watching anything. However, on Friday, two films that I've been wanting to see for a while played back-to-back at the Watermans, so I thought I'd take the risk and head down. Luckily, I think I'm finally over my issues and I might actually be able to enjoy films again...though unfortunately neither film on my Friday double-bill quite proved this for me.
The first was Hammad Khan's Slackistan, a film which I really wanted to love. I've been following the production since I saw a post on Shooting People seeking a sound recordist for the project. I think it was Khan's citation of The Duplass Brothers as an influence which made me interested: despite being set in Pakistan, Slackistan is an independent British film with a true indie spirit, a project which is definitely worth supporting. (Unfortunately, not many people seem to agree with this point...there was only one other person in the whole cinema. I've written on this topic before, so won't go into it again here, but come on people, really...). Regrettably, if I'm honest, I found the film rather flawed, but I'd still recommend it, if for no other reason than to support the spirit with which it was made.
The second film I saw was the current arthouse favourite (and Palme d'Or winner) Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Although I found the film beautifully captivating, it was far from totally satisfying. Perhaps a second viewing will provide further levels of appreciation.
The two preview screenings of the day (only revealed once we were all seated) turned out to be The Next Three Days and TRON: Legacy. The first proved to be an engaging, tense thriller, if also something of a missed opportunity. Dealing with the life of John Brennan (Russell Crowe) after his wife (Elizabeth Banks) is sent to prison for murder, the film soon shifts gear from psychological portrait to a far less interesting man-with-a-plan crime drama. Dramatically it rattles along and, despite some dubious morality and nonsensical moments, it manages to engage the emotions to a successful degree...but it all just somehow feels rather shallow and forgettable. Which, when one thinks about it, makes perfect sense for a film directed by the man who brought us Crash...
It's fair to say that there also wasn't much intellectual depth to TRON: Legacy, but I doubt that that was ever the point. One part Wizard of Oz, one part Star Wars, one part Running Man, and two parts Jeff Bridges, the film never feels particularly original, but is never much less than good fun. I still don't buy into the whole 3D thing, but beyond that the film is visually impressive and emotionally involving, and sustains enjoyment throughout its runtime. It's not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a good, solid ride all the same.