Michael Cox reviews Hitchcock/Truffaut, One Floor Below and Where Do We Go From Here?
Alfred Hitchcock. Francois Truffaut. Two of the greatest filmmakers of all time. More importantly, Truffaut wrote one of the most important cinema books ever published—a look at Hitchcock’s work.
Kent Jones’ documentary looks at the impact that both filmmakers, along with Truffaut’s book, have had on cinema. Containing interviews with current noted filmmakers and insights into a selection of films from both Hitchcock and Truffaut, the film is a beginner’s insightful glance into the work of both men.
But therein lies its problem: as an introduction to either director or a sales pitch for the book, the film works well; for anyone with a passing knowledge of both men and the book, there’s little new here. Still, it’s good to see clips from Vertigo, Psycho and The 400 Blows on the screen again. And any excuse to hear luminaries speaking about the craft of film is worth any cinephile’s time.
One Floor Below (***)
Somewhere in Romania, Patrascu, a middle-aged man, overhears a man and a woman have a huge quarrel. Hours later, she is found dead. Neighbours and locals quickly spin stories and soon the police come with questions. And yet Patrascu says nothing. Long scenes play out, watching Patrascu interact with family, friends, colleagues and strangers. He seems an honest man, a good husband and father, someone who adores his dog. And yet he chooses to remain silent.
Radu Muntean’s film is not interested in plot. Nothing is satisfactorily explained, though things are hinted at. Why does the film’s lead refuse to name names? The audience is never shown any detail saying why he chooses to remain silent, even if the film is populated with scenes filled with excellent performances.
Perhaps a film that’s easier to admire than like, One Floor Below is an example of extreme naturalism. One’s enjoyment will come from their willingness to take the long camera shots and deduce for themselves what it all means.
Where Do We Go From Here? (***)
John McPhail’s film is filled with earnestness, pluck and wears its heart on its sleeve, but it seems to have forgotten to bring its brain.
James (Tyler Collins) has had bad luck in life. His mother died while giving birth to him. His grandfather raises him, forming an inseparable bond between the two, a bond that sees James deciding to chuck travelling the world in favour of being a caregiver when illness visits. But now that his grandfather has died, what is he to do? He’s a janitor at the care home his grandfather lived in and is good friends with some of the residents, and he has become smitten by the new nurse. And yet, the world calls.
There isn’t a mean bone in McPhail’s film, but there is an awful lot of sugar. The character lines are paper-thin: the care home residents are types rather than characters, James’ infatuation is perfect barring the fact she’s oblivious to our hero’s true feelings, and Miss Thompson runs the care home—so she must be the villain and so is constantly rude and mean.
It would be easy to write McPhail’s film off as tosh that might have a life on daytime TV and leave it at that. However, there is no denying the potential skill he has as a filmmaker: the dialogue does click along, and every scene is well-shot and manages to evoke emotions.
In the end, the film manages to be tolerable thanks to a game cast. But also buried in the film is the potential for a great storyteller. If McPhail is able to lessen the sugar next time, we might have a good filmmaker to behold.
All films viewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2016.