Because of going to work and school, I haven’t been able to make it to the movies put on by Film Club 3.0 at the Winchester Alamo Drafthouse. But, I was able to make it there last week.
Kerry and I went for a doubleheader. First up, Trainwreck. It was a gender swapped version of a rom-com story we’ve heard a bunch of times. Guy is a partier, runs into a woman, they fall in love, but because of his wild behavior the relationship crumbles. Trainwreck was this story, with the genders reversed. We enjoyed it. I’d recommend it, however it gets pretty … raunchy. So if you count yourself as possession a conservative sense of humor, skip it. If you do go see it, LeBron James adds a great layer of humor to the movie. It was a treat to see him.
The second movie was The Tribe. I went into the movie knowing almost nothing about it. Kerry told me that it featured deaf actors, who communicated only in ASL, and there were no subtitles. The setting is Ukrainian, so it wasn’t ASL, but you get the point.
Anyway. Andy Gyurisin invited in a lady who teaches sign language to speak, and teach us a few signs, which really helped add to the setup for the movie. He also told us that a few critics had called The Tribe “the indy film of the summer”. I think it was a slow summer for indy films.
I left the theater, needing some time to digest it. Kerry had expressed the concern that the movie’s only appeal would be the novelty of exclusive use of sign language, and there wouldn’t be much more to it. I think she was partially right. Partially, because the choice to use only sign language added to the film and detracted from it.
The story starts off with what we understand to be the new kid to a school for the deaf. He’s out of place, and immediately gets hazed a bit. Only a few scenes in, I’ve lost any sort of emotional connection to this guy, because he’s a weirdo, and if he’s communicating anything important through sign, I’m not getting it.
The school has an organized crime ring that operates out of the school. Sort of like Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but instead of mutant hero, it’s deaf criminals. In fact, the guy that seems to be running the place is bald like Xavier. We have several repetitious scenes of two girls being pimped to truck drivers. We have a scene of the school kids robbing a man. And we have some vague illusions to interpersonal dynamics. The clearest of these are the “new kid” getting dumped on and ostracized. And that includes a fight scene that is either terribly done or wasn’t an actual “fight” but I couldn’t tell because of the production of the film doing a wretched job of feeding the audience anything about what was going on between the characters.
Okay, so I just used the word “wretched” to describe someone else’s creative work. I prefer not to get too negative on someone else’s work because, at the end of the day, I haven’t made a single feature length film, and these people have. So, negative reviews I try to reserve for the situations where I feel I could have done better. And I think I could have.
I had left the movie praising the use of very long shots. Nearly all of the shots in the movie have a pretty long amount of time between cuts, including a few shots that probably took some serious setup to do, so if there were second or third takes, that’d cost some real time and money. The problem is, the more I thought about it, many of these shots are the characters walking through the snow or up and down stairs. These parts of the shots add nothing to the story.
My complaint is that the production includes vestigial footage and omits valuable character development, keeping the film from achieving any sense of mise en scène.
The film also includes a couple of very lengthy, and graphic, sexual encounters. The one scene that really stuck with me and if I could give one very bright gold star to the movie would be the lengthy abortion scene. The film has a fully on screen, back alley abortion. It is emotionally distressing and painful to watch.
One of the other movie go-ers at Film Club had written their own review, and I think that I’d agree with all of it, except for the recommendation to see the film just for the experience of seeing it. Scout Tafoya, writing for rogerebert.com, really tears into the film as well, giving it a generous one and a half stars. If you’re a real indy buff, sure, but otherwise- skip The Tribe.