February 25, 2008
Chop Shop."Ramin Bahrani's Chop Shop is a low-budget vérité triumph, set in Queens beyond the sight of baseball fans in nearby Shea Stadium," writes David Edelstein in New York. "Bahrani's concentration is close to supernatural as he tracks the young, prepubescent Ale (Alejandro Polanco) from job to soul-numbing job, some legal, some extralegal, to the point where you're forced to suspend altogether your moral judgments and watch with a mixture of pain and awe." "As in his stunningly assured debut, Man Push Cart, Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani uses Chop Shop not to sentimentalize the travails of one of NYC's multitudinous, ignored underclass, but to discover, as Arthur Miller once said of The Bicycle Thief, 'Everyman's search for dignity,'" writes Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE. "Or in this case, Everyboy's. Comparisons to Italian Neorealism in general and De Sica in particular (Shoeshine comes most immediately to mind) will inevitably keep surfacing in reviews and discussions of Chop Shop, so it's important when calling upon these references to emphasize the moral attitude of that movement as well as its gritty, unadorned style." Updated through 2/29. Nick Dawson talks with Bahrani "about his distinctive creative process, making the camera invisible, and Queen Latifah movies." Earlier: Nick Schager in Slant and reviews from Toronto. Updates, 2/27: "Mr Bahrani was born in the United States and lived for a while in Iran, his parents' native country (and [co-writer Bahareh] Azimi's), and the influence of recent Iranian cinema on Chop Shop is unmistakable," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "The oblique, naturalistic storytelling, the interest in children and the mingling of documentary and fictional techniques - these have been hallmarks of the work of Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, but they are rarely deployed with such confidence or effectiveness by American filmmakers." "Chop Shop derives much of its value from the sense of being found, not made," writes Nathan Lee in the Voice. "As signaled by the transparent naming of his characters, Bahrani inflects his drama with documentary, grabbing sights and sounds directly from the street in a dexterous update of neorealist strategies." Also: Lisa Katzman talks with Bahrani. And so do Logan Hill for New York and Lisa Rosman for indieWIRE. "Whatever its artistic roots may be, Chop Shop, along with Bahrani's almost-undistributed debut, Man Push Cart, announces the arrival of a director radically out of step with the dominant conventions of American moviemaking, one who blends a social-realist vision and a passion for cinematic poetry," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Chop Shop is driven by a sense of impending doom," writes Marcy Dermansky. "Alejandro is such a good kid and the adults in his world take everything he has to offer and give little in return. Much to the film's credit, Bahrani doesn't provide the expected tragedy; instead, Alejandro wakes up to face the next day. And the next. You're left to wonder, what will he do, come winter." "Anyone who goes into Chop Shop expecting some kind of stealth statement about class divisions in American society will probably be disappointed because Bahrani, unlike those Italian neorealist directors of old, isn't all that interested in social criticism," writes Kenji Fujishima at the House Next Door. "Poverty and loneliness, he seemingly acknowledges at the outset, is a fact of life; his focus is more specifically on how poor individuals try, don't try, or fail to work out of it. In other words, he's more interested in universals than in topical relevance, and it is on that universal level that both of Bahrani's films gain their emotional resonance." Updates, 2/28: "[T]he confidence with which Mr Bahrani plunges us into the milieu is paired with an odd anxiety when it comes to plot details and dialogue," writes Nicolas Rapold in the New York Sun. "Some of the most stilted lines and transitions aren't even necessary to convey what's happening, while frantically glued-together sequences sink the movie's meandering final third. Similar weaknesses kept Man Push Cart from achieving its potential." Aaron Hillis talks with Bahrani for IFC News. Update, 2/29: "Shot with breathtaking immediacy and featuring casts of non-professionals in real-life locations, Bahrani's films give narrative shape and compelling character shadings to documentary worlds," writes Bilge Ebiri at ScreenGrab. "The result is something that feels like a new language being born, even though it owes a conscious debt to both non-fiction filmmakers like Shirley Clarke and realist narrative masters like John Cassavetes and Vittorio De Sica. Which is all just a fancy way of saying you really, really should not miss Chop Shop."
Posted by dwhudson at February 25, 2008 2:59 PM