Movie Review By Casey McCabe
What's more beautiful about low-budget independent filmmaking than the sheer independence? With no studio executive fretting about whether it'll play in Peoria, the filmmaker is free to tell any story he or she wants. And in the process prove just how slavish and unimaginative Hollywood can be.
So it's odd how often independent filmmakers show their independence by making the same independent film over and over and over. You know the one. Where the morally ambiguous protagonist gets caught up in a seedy noir underworld? The one with quirky perspectives, stark cinematography and fiendish little twist at the end?
The latest is called Following, the feature debut of British writer/director Chris Nolan. It's not a bad film. I just wish it had led elsewhere.
Following is the story of an aspiring young writer named Bill, so aspiring he still writes on a manual typewriter. Bill has become obsessed with following strangers. Nothing sexual or threatening, mind you. He simply picks someone out of the faceless crowd and follows them around, discovering where they live, where they work, who they meet. Bill wants to know what makes random strangers tick. He's a writer. There must be 10 million stories walking around London. It makes perfectly perverse sense. And a great little premise.
Then one day Bill follows the wrong stranger. A handsome dandy named Cobb who is a follower himself, but for more practical reasons: only when you understand a person's daily pattern can you feel comfortable breaking in their homes and stealing their possessions. Cobb also enjoys the psychological gambit here, profiling strangers based on their personal artifacts. That, we are to assume, is what lures curious Bill into his world, a leap from harmless eccentric to hardened felon. To help explain Bill's rapid descent, Nolan inserts a femme fatale. And we know how they can make a fella do awfully stupid things.
Following is clever enough. Obsessively clever, actually. It just doesnít pulls it off anywhere near as well as say David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner, which handled a similar tale of paranoia and betrayal much more, how shall we say....professionally.
Would it have been so wrong to have chosen one of the 10 million stories that DIDN'T involve a fiendish caper, ill-gotten loot and murder? What would happen if low-budget indie filmmakers were outlawed from using the neo-noir genre for their auspicious debuts?
The sad truth is, Hollywood can, and probably will, make a movie like Following. And I wouldn't be shocked if they do it better.
© 1999 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 06/23/99
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