October 9, 2007

NYFF. Redacted.

Redacted "Whether blunt or sharp, the film's impact is impossible to dismiss," argues Jürgen Fauth. "[T]he infuriating familiarity of Redacted [site] is exactly what gives it its overwhelming power: of course we know that war is hell, that it makes monsters of people, that innocents suffer and die in ways and numbers beyond our comprehension - and yet, we still allow it to happen, again and again."

Then came the press conference that's got the film blogs buzzing. Jürgen's got video and explains the brouhaha: "When selection committee member J Hoberman asked about the black bars that now cover some of the photographs at the conclusion of the film," director Brian De Palma replied, "Redacted is now itself redacted... My cut was violated."

When De Palma fingered Mark Cuban as the redactor, Eamonn Bowles of Magnolia Pictures, which'll be distributing the film in November, sprang to Cuban's defense, followed by co-producer Jason Kliot, who "saw the problem not as a 'Cuban vs De Palma type silly debate' but an issue of Fair Use laws, which he considered completely unfair: 'they set it up so we cannot use images of our own culture to tell the truth about our own culture.'... At Spoutblog, Karina Longworth gets a statement from Cuban, and Bowles comments at Movie City Indie." Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay, a producer himself, comments, "I suspect the argument here is complicated by the fact that, at the end of the day, Redacted is a work of fiction, not a documentary, so the argument that these images fall into the realm of 'news' may be emotionally but not legally true."

"The most ambitious American film this year is a high school theatre quality production shot in varying forms and styles of digital video by Brian De Palma and labeled Redacted," writes Daniel Kasman. "Accepting Redacted as a broad, unreasonably stupid and over-obvious drama of American wartime behavior or an unbelievable, hollow simulation of digital media formats is simply what De Palma is warning against. That none of Redacted seems to 'work' is exactly its purpose; in its unavoidable exaggeration one must see that the answers it seems to provide for both the behavior of the military and its representation in media are totally, ridiculously bankrupt."

"Those who sense a touch of the late-night sketch comic in Brian De Palma's latest are not far off from the point - Redacted is as much about media infiltration of the senses as it is about documenting (by fictionalizing) the 2006 rape of a teenage Iraqi girl (Zahara Al Zubaidi), and the subsequent murder of herself and her family by several members of the US military," writes Keith Uhlich at the House Next Door.

"I'll write about Redacted at greater length in November, when it opens commercially," blogs David Edelstein. "But it's important to deal now - before the noise machine gears up - with the question of De Palma's alleged misogyny and anti-Americanism." And he dives right into laying out both of his arguments.

"To take on such a topic and then fumble it so badly reveals in De Palma either profound arrogance or a general contempt for the American people he's apparently looking to inform," fumes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. "That the film will be prime, indefensible fodder for the next round of attacks on liberal, "out of touch" Hollywood is just the cherry on top."

"Redacted feels like the work of a director so righteously angry and so pleased with his formal experimentation that he doesn't realize how painfully, inelegantly obvious he's being," writes Nick Schager.

"That none of this footage matches the authenticity of any of the media it references is beside the point; those looking for real-life versions of these videos can easily find them online or on DVD," argues Kevin B Lee at Slant. "Perhaps a better version of Redacted could be made of the seemingly endless real video footage readily available from a stunning array of sources and perspectives. In the meantime, De Palma has offered a film both emotionally crude and formally sophisticated, a Michael Moore-meets-Lars von Trier war movie, whose chief value is in its ambition to take stock of the many ways that war is being consumed today."

"Clever, clever, or so the director clearly thinks, but Redacted manages to be overdone and undercooked at the same time, both disingenuous and entirely self-serious," writes Michelle Orange at the Reeler.

Anthony Kaufman talks with De Palma for the Voice: "The audience should be upset. I'm upset. I'm upset that the Fourth Estate has collaborated with the administration and sold a bill of goods to the American people about why we're there and what we're doing."

Earlier: Reviews and previews from Toronto and NYFF and initial reactions from Venice.

Update, 10/10: "While Paul Haggis's In the Valley of Elah was a self-consciously interiorized, safely melancholy, and dull-edged take that played like its director's unspoken penance after the shrieking histrionics of Crash, Brian De Palma takes the opposite approach with Redacted, moving painfully far from his comfort zone and ending up with a rigid, vital, infuriating, and hugely imperfect film, a guttural yawp that exemplifies what's right and wrong with this controversial director's aesthetic and moral approach to filmmaking," writes Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot. "Redacted has been both overpraised and too easily dismissed—an unsurprising reaction to a film that feels alternately as rushed and angry as this week's hot Youtube clip and as devilishly calculated as the work of a seasoned master."

Updates, 10/11: "[I]f the legal issue is a smoke screen, then the photos need to go back at once," argues David Edelstein. "They're intended to convey De Palma's outrage over the death and destruction happening beyond the film frame - happening this instant."

"[T]he discussion about the movie may be (intentionally or unintentionally) more challenging and illuminating than what is in (or not in) the movie itself," writes Jim Emerson. "Then again, once you posit that idea (especially about a film that so deliberately toys with reflexivity, dialectics and alienation effects), it automatically becomes an extension of the movie.... Unless I'm wrong and De Palma didn't really want to shake anybody up."

"DePalma's Redacted seems to have already served whatever function it's going to," writes Glenn Kenny. "It's already been excoriated by right-wing pundits who will never see it.... Film blogs have had their back-and-forths.... The ado at the press conference, when I heard of it, just gave me a dispiriting feeling that everything surrounding this picture added up to little more than an addled game of Capture the Flag enacted by various media... I can't believe I'm gonna use this word... elites."

Meantime: "It looks like the 'battle' over Redacted is over," announces Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog, where she quotes De Palma: "I exhausted my legal options about 24 hours ago."

Update, 10/13: "For every one of us who sees a bold visual stylist and a daring satirical intelligence, there seem to be five very loud people who think he's a crude, hyperbolic shlockmeister and a sadist," notes Phil Nugent of De Palma. "I know some smart people who think his career is more of less a big sack of crap, and I respect their opinions, but I do suspect that some people, prominent critics among them, have a bad reaction to his work partly because there's something there that they'd rather fight off."

Update, 10/16: Redacted's "flaws might be intentional considering De Palma's love of fakery, and, however unexpectedly, they do buttress the film's main theme," concedes Michael Joshua Rowin at Stop Smiling. "But they also leave a strong impression of De Palma's tone-deafness when it comes to generating actual empathy and understanding of the film's real-life referent."

Bookmark and Share

Posted by dwhudson at October 9, 2007 1:46 PM


Your a pundit dwhudson.

Posted by: f at October 23, 2007 12:54 PM

I 'experienced' this film at both the Toronto and NY Film festivals. (A film in which I was a part of was in both). If I ever were to leave my life as an artist to go back to school to teach - I would make this required viewing. Not only from a filmmakers viewpoint but an acting perspective as well. I can imagine that DePalma will encounter a significant amount of backlash. But I think it will be largely because of the impact of the 'experience' one will feel when they see it. I loved MSG Sweet, Ty Jones. His intensity was palpable and you get the feeling if someone like him or how Jones compellingly portrayed him were around, this heinous act may have never occurred. I could go on and on about this movie and the actors. Izzy Diaz, Patrick Carroll and others including the Arab actors were all worthy of praises. Unforgettable.

Posted by: Leigh Moore at October 28, 2007 10:15 PM