dir-scr Sally Potter
with Jude Law, Judi Dench, Eddie Izzard, Dianne Wiest, John Leguizamo, Adriana Barraza, Steve Buscemi, Lily Cole, Bob Balaban, David Oyelowo, Riz Ahmed, Patrick J Adams, Simon Abkarian, Jakob Cedergren
release UK 24.Sep.09
09/UK 1h39
Local colour: Dench and Law (above); and clockwise below: Cole, Izzard, Ahmed, Buscemi, Abkarian and Barraza
Berlin film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Rage Strangely misunderstood by critics, this film is not, as it first appears, a satire about the fashion industry. It's actually an astute look at how people play with the truth. And it's well worth a look.

An unseen student named Michelangelo is using his mobile phone to make a movie as a school project. Over several days, he quietly listens as 14 people talk to the camera about a catwalk show to launch a new perfume called M. But a model dies during the event, and it begins to look like murder when they restage the show and a second model is shot. Everyone is terrified for very different reasons.

On camera we meet frightened models (Law, Cole and Ahmed); a bitter journalist (Dench); corporate bigwigs (Izzard and Wiest); marketing experts (Balaban, Adams and Cedergren); the designer (Abkarian); a world-weary photographer (Buscemi); a seamstress who prefers anonymity (Barraza); a bodyguard (Leguizamo); and a Shakespeare-spouting detective (Oyelowo). Most of them are complex and enigmatic, and some have the ability to surprise us (Law and Dench are amazing). All are extremely strong performances, even if some characters feel cliched.

But then that's part of the point of the film, which is targeting the YouTube era through big issues like morality, creativity and justice. Potter's filmmaking is surprisingly light-handed within the limits she establishes, and while the film feels experimental, with very few commercial prospects, it's also fairly gripping as the characters start to squirm. And this heightened reality looks terrific on the big screen in a way it never will on video. The razor-sharp photography and lurid coloured backdrops are utterly iconic. And that's also intentional.

Also intentional is the misleading title, which refers to how catching "real" events is all the rage, even though it never tells the actual truth. There are frequent moments that feel utterly false here, but these are bits contrived by the characters to mislead Michelangelo (and anyone watching online) from what's actually going on. And what is actually going on? Well, we can be certain that a schoolboy with a mobile phone is never going to get that on film, is he? No matter what the blogosphere thinks.

cert 15 themes, language 8.Feb.09 bff

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall