Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chicago Film Festival: Hallam Foe

David Mackenzie is back to some of his Young Adam tricks in Hallam Foe, and once again, the most riddlesome tricks of all are a) how he gets the movie to spring as excitingly as it does from a sketchy story with significant limitations, and b) why the movie fails to work a little better despite all the evident and encouraging talent involved. Hallam Foe orbits around the twin suns of Collision and Surveillance, as encapsulated in the opening sequence that starts with the title character (Jamie Bell) squatting in his treehouse to spy on his sister, who at that moment is taking an amorous roll in the glade with her boyfriend. After streaking himself up with some "barbarous" makeup and a makeshift headdress made of a badger hide, Hallam war-whoops his way down a pulley-and-cord contraption and crashes right into the humiliated lovers. The whole sequence, improbable in incident and choreography, serves primarily to acquaint us with Hallam Foe's bold and peculiar experiments in exaggerated reality. As befits a film about an incorrigible peeping tom, Hallam Foe is full of point-of-view shots and furtive, handheld pokes around corners and to the sides of various barriers. Just as markedly, however, but with much more distinctive formal panache, Mackenzie and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens (The Deep End) perpetually shuttle Hallam in and out of strong but strikingly different lighting schemes, soundscapes, and color patterns. Though these contrasts and effects occasionally spill into overstatement—trains that sound like entire artillery brigades, saturated colors and overexposed light to signal big emotional climaxes—Hallam Foe cannot be accused of concealing its investment in the dramatic heightening of sensation, the privileging of psychic logic and hormonal pulls over safer and more quotidian forms of "realistic" storytelling. Indeed, the film's evocation of Hallam's jumpy and inchoate overstimulation is its sustaining badge of craftsmanship and creative vivacity. Click here to read the rest...

Photo © 2007 Scottish Screen/Ingenious Film Partners

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