Calgary International Film Festival day 10:
- Made in China *******
Well, it wasn't what I was expecting, I can say that.
From the synopsis on the festival website, I was expecting a documentary (perhaps mockumentary) about making cheap goods in China for the American export market. What I got was a hilarious (and totally fictional) story about some small-town Texas rube who seeks to make his dreams come true, and figures that partnering with someone in Shanghai that he met over Craigslist is a just peachy way of doing it.
The small-town Texas rube totally carried the movie. It was always going to live or die on the back of that character, and in less-capable hands, could easily have been an ungodly mess. Luckily, Jackson Kuehn manages to master the perfect balancing act of charm, persistence, naivete, humility and optimism to make it work. On the strength of his performance, the entire movie works, and in an odd way, is carried along in his wake.
As the audience, we are able to see the coming pitfalls, we are clearly able to see that Kuehn's character is not able to see the coming pitfalls, but we root for him anyway. And it feels pretty good to share in his successes, small or large. Very charming.
- Art & Copy ***
A frustrating documentary. Parts were neat. Other parts, wearyingly defensive.
Not that I entirely blame the filmmaker. Our entire civilization shares with me an (at best) love-hate relationship with advertising, and I can understand the temptation to take advantage of one's time on the soapbox to present some kind of defense for the subject. That doesn't negate the fact that I found it distracting, off-putting, and could have done without it.
Other than that, it was pretty cool. I guess. Rather pedestrian. Given the Creativity (capital C) pursued by those the picture depicts, I was surprised how bereft the film itself was of same. There were certainly no risks taken with the narrative structure, that's for sure.
Indeed the more I think about it, the less happy I am with the movie. I'm not sure how long it'll stick with me.
A slightly disappointing finish to the festival.