Saturday, 29 May 2021

An Imperfect Murder

I don't think I'm alone in not quite being able to work out what I think about this 2017 short film which leaps between arthouse, murder/mystery, psychological thriller and insightful character study. It's all of those and more - or less, if you go by general reception of this James Tobac offering.

James Tobac, the writer, actor, director, producer has been previously involved with works such as Bugsy, Fingers and even appearing in Woody Allen's Alice. Here, he tries something different it seems. A slightly removed reality centred around an actress who is approached by her ex-boyfriend and in a struggle, accidentally kills him. Concluding that there's no way for her except to cover it up, she disposes of the body and tries to move on.

The audience isn't really very sure about whether or not the above is true, however, as she meanders between reality and the self-indulgence surrounding a book that she is writing which seems, half the time to be about the topic of this film and story. It's a bit complicated in terms of what's what, so much better really to focus on other stuff on offer here.

The central performances of the key characters are beautifully executed, almost inside vignettes with a tad more glue than expected. Sienna Miller (Layer Cake) takes the lead as Vera as others come and go amidst various scenes which generally drill deeply into her life and situation. Alec Baldwin turns up as a policeman for a couple of scenes, trying to quiz her about the alleged incident. Tobac himself also throws himself into the mix for a spell before the most interesting scene arrives involving the late Charles Grodin.

Grodin plays her grandfather who is suffering from confusion, disorientation, forgetfulness and anxiety as an ageing man. Vera sits with him and her mother, his daughter, over a simple meal. The scene takes ten minutes out of the running time and is worth seeing in isolation, for those who can't be bothered with the arty-farty content of the rest of it. Grodin portrays the difficulties facing the old man in a quite frightening way and Miller supports with patience and understanding. It's a film within a film and certainly eye-opening.

The rest of it is slow, dialogue-based mainly but beautifully shot with well considered camerawork, angles, lighting and focus in pretty much a closed apartment set. It feels like it could have been written for the stage, in this respect, but Tobac has made the most of the interior keeping it visually interesting throughout.

The star of the show though seems to be the music as it sweeps through classical music, so powerfully delivered in all the right places, peppered also with choice modern cuts too. It is an attempt at an arty piece of work which, unlike most folk out there it seems, I think has been pulled off. It's interesting and different. As a fan of arthouse, I forgive the cries of pretentiousness from critics and prefer to be open-minded, trying to soak up the show looking for positive attributes. There's enough here for me in that regard, but you may not think so. It's only 70 minutes, so why not try!

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