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Dylan Matthew

The Edinburgh Guide (online), June 2008

I also had the good fortune to catch up on Duane Hopkins debut feature Better Things. This is also a remarkable film that I will discuss in my next blog, but I'll just say I thought the film was a few whiskers shy of a masterpiece. Hopkins is a singularly visionary talent.

 

Dylan Matthew 

Blog/Review in the Edinburgh Guide (online), June 2008

Although I've taken an educated, but nevertherless wild guess that Duane Hopkins debut Better Things might scoop the red shoes, I really can't be sure until I've seen the entire list. I will see Dummy tonight and the remainder tomorrow.

I also promised to let you know what I thought of Better Things so here goes:

It's the work of a singular visionary talent whose only flaw here perhaps was to not leave a mole on the face as it were to balance out all the painfully precise beauty that's infused throughout the film. It looks and feels like a hybrid of East European influences and the poetic visuals of a Lynne Ramsay film.

The camera almost never moves which is something I normally hate, but it works here for this is a series of painterly locked off still photographs almost, designed with the rigid symmetrical compostions of a Kubrick film with characters framed always in the middle of rooms and corridors that are identical on either side‚Ä®.

But let's not get carried away - I'm not referring to the epic visuals of 2001 or A Clockwork Orange simply a noticeable echo. In comparison, Better Things is very subtle yet a powerful depiction of loneliness and the need for companionship, approval and connections by people who in reality feel utterly numb and disconnected. In fact, if there's been a theme to half the films I've seen at this festival its loneliness in one form or another with humans striving to make meaningful connections with each other.

 

Hopkins also has a great eye for a good face and has put together a brilliant ensemble cast of the very young and the very old generations all performing with graceful restraint and understatement. Set in a non-descript working class nowhereville, it's a series of vignettes studying human behaviour, feelings and interactions.

The story (of which there is actually very little) revolves around the funeral of 23 year old Tess who dies of a drug overdose. Those that knew her or had some connection to her stumble around the rest of the film in a state of numb confusion as they try to work out the relevance of this to themselves.

One has to admit it doesn't sound like a very riveting premise, but Hopkins has created a truly mesmerising, beautiful and at times powerfully moving study of teenage angst and human self inflicted suffering splashed with a few dots of joy or hope.It's maybe too beautifully put together, the director clearly knows what he's creating and what he wants and perhaps some of the endlessly carefully crafted shots, pregnant pauses and creative use of or the lack of sound could have been enhanced by the occasional deliberate moment of improvised unproffesionalism, the perfectly placed mole on the face as it were. But then again this is Hopkins' film not mine and it worked well enough to impress me. It must have a fair chance of getting the Michael Powell award come Sunday and I imagine equally good and better things from this director in future.

Source | The Edinburgh Guide


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