Wednesday, May 04, 2011

IFFBoston 2011 Night #2: The Bengali Detective and On the Ice

Not a whole lot to say about this day - both shows were on screen #2 at the Somerville, which is not my favorite; there's zero leg room, an aisle right up the middle, and as you can see from the picture below, it's not the best for Q&A type situations, although my phone's camera doesn't help.

It was however, a pretty good day for eating. With coupons to use up, I picked up a chocolate banana cream pie at Petsi Pies before working from home that day, and was able to do the quick running in and out of Boston Burger Company and scarf down a King burger (bacon, peanut butter, fried bananas) while standing in line between films. Let me tell you, I got me some potassium that day.

So, anyway, one movie that didn't quite live up to its potential, one that was surprisingly good. I could say more, but let's just get to the awful photography and reviews:

Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
On the Ice director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, answering questions about his film and not zapping us with laser eyes.

The Bengali Detective

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 April 2011 in Somerville Theatre #2 (IFFBoston 2011)

Often, a good documentary will seem like the result of as much good fortune as anything; after all, it's entirely possible to have a compelling topic, an interesting subject to follow around, and a good crew, but that's no guarantee of having a great film come together. Sometimes, a filmmaker will have all that and just be unable to will something fascinating to happen on camera. The Bengali Detective certainly seems to be that sort of movie - a good concept whose great, climactic scene just never materialized.

Rajesh Ji is the Bengali detective of the title, a private investigator who started fifteen years ago with just a pair of cell phones. He now has an office, a half-dozen or so employees, and multiple clients who have him investigate a broad range of cases. His bread and butter is infidelity and stores selling counterfeit products, but his firm has just been engaged by a family that doesn't believe the police are doing enough to investigate a grisly murder. The detectives are a close-knit group, entering a television dance competition together, although Rajesh is showing the strain from other parts of his life - his wife Minnie is seriously ill.

Those last two elements often seem to be at war with each other; this dance thing seems to be taking up a fair amount of time that Rajesh could be spending with his family while he still can. Sure, the audience can't really judge how any man deals with that sort of stress - practicing his dance moves might be just the release Rajesh needs - but most are certainly going to give it a try and find it lacking; we see a man lying to himself and his wife about the seriousness of her health problems. Besides that, the dance competition seems like extra tacked-on quirkiness, comic relief at the expense of the movie's subjects.

Full review at EFC.

On the Ice

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 April 2011 in Somerville Theatre #2 (IFFBoston 2011)

Thrillers like On the Ice are traditionally set among shadows and night, with the lines and crags on the actors' faces all the backstory needed to explain how they wound up in such a spot. Of course, you don't get shadows if the sun never sets, so it's entirely appropriate that this film's twisty plot is navigated by a fine young cast.

Qalli (Josiah Patkotak) and Aivaaq (Frank Qutuq Irelan) are best friends in a small Alaska town, but they are on different trajectories. Responsible Qalli is headed to college in the fall, while Aivaaq has just learned that his girlfriend Uvlu (Sierra Jade Sampson) is pregnant. The morning after a party, they're going seal-hunting with their classmate James (John Miller), but Qalli arrives late, to find Aivaaq and James in a serious fight, and before he really knows what is going on, James is dead. The truth doesn't seem to be an option, so they do what they can to misdirect the authorities to make it look like an accident. Of course, no plan is perfect, and something seems off to Qalli's father Egasak (Teddy Kyle Smith), head of the local search & rescue team.

On the Ice is not an extraordinarily complicated movie; writer/director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean and his cast lay out just about everything the audience needs to know about the characters and the situation in the first ten or fifteen minutes. It is, however, the sort where the next complication follows logically and inevitably - not just because the plans are flawed mechanically, but because human nature in both general and specific cases will not be denied. MacLean makes the plot twists interesting in a number of specific, interesting ways - scenes where geography is important are shot clearly, blows to the head produce realistic concussion-like symptoms, and James's girlfriend Michelle (Adamina Kerr) has an interesting role.

Full review at EFC.

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