Sunday, March 01, 2009

Funny & Real - Amir Motlagh's Debut Feature WHALE Does Not Disappoint


Whale Trailer First Feature Film by Amir Motlagh - The best video clips are right here

Just saw Whale - the debut feature by Amir Motlagh - here are some thoughts about it (am not a film critic, and am a fan of Amir's film work - have been for a while since watching the short Still Lover a few years back):

So what's Whale about in a broad sense? It's about young-ish men - dudes pushing 30, right around 30, dealing with unexpected changes (a pregnant girlfriend in one case), yet-unrealized old ambitions (an unfinished novel, a writing career that has yet to materialize despite years of work), and, for one reason or another, still living at mom's house. In a narrow sense Whale is about a late 20's Iranian-American aspiring writer who moves back in with his parents, re-connects with his old friends, & tries to figure out the next chapter of his life. The acting/non-acting is so flawless Whale appears to be a blend between documentary footage and a foreign/art house project. But one good, or bad, depending on how you look at it, thing about Whale is that even though its form will evoke a foreign/art house movie to some people - the characters & the surroundings & their dilemmas are so uniquely & obviously American - seemingly intelligent & relatively well off young people who are intensely troubled by romantic/sexual situations and the search for creative careers & greater meaning in life (both luxuries that are more easily pursued in America than in most countries in the world, as far as I know/can tell). At one point during the movie I thought to myself that this kind of thing must be what most "mumblecore" & other twenty something indie films are after - a direct revelation of their reality/personal experience presented in a way/format that outsiders may be able to connect with - but, whereas most mumblecore movies feel very unrealistic & narrow in the world that they are able to re-create on the screen, Whale feels "more real" (probably due to the fact, for me, the cast is multi-ethnic & from different economic classes & that both those facts are heavily related to how the characters see themselves & how they process their current situation in life), oriented more in the general direction of universality (a lot of dudes, even if they are not arty or whatever, but grew up in America in the 80's & 90's, will probably be able to relate well to Whale), & is funny (here I am thinking about the long discussion regarding the water skiing incident).

I know I am all kinds of biased (not only have I seen & liked most of Amir's movies (specially the earlier shorts, before knock.knock), he is working on my current fiction feature, possibly even acting in it), but, I can very comfortably say that Whale is one of the most exciting & well made indie films I've seen in a while, I'd put it up there with Medicine for Melancholy - both for freshness of voice & technical (video & audio) polish & also for creating an interesting/reflective image of ethnic & economic diversity in America.

For more on Whale, go here.

- Sujewa

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