sujewa films nyc

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Breakthrough Weekend review by Rick Schmidt

BREAKTHROUGH WEEKEND a film by Sujewa Ekanayake.
Reviewed by Rick Schmidt 

When my Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices book first came out, I ended the Preface by saying, "In an age where motion pictures are being called the major new art form of the twentieth century, I think it is important that many more of these "features" are created outside the Hollywood system, by artists who have something to say with an original and personal point of view." Well, with his new feature, Breakthrough Weekend (80 minutes, Color, ©2014), writer/director Sujewa Ekanayake has done just that. Very rarely do I get to see a movie this unique, with a fresh new approach, that can't be readily compared to much else. And because it is an original, filmmaker Ekanayake having invented his own brand of storytelling and interplay of characters, it will demand more from an audience than, say, a Spiderman, X-Men or Scorsese film (sorry Martin, but your movies are 'cookie cutter,' even when they're suspenseful; ie. Departed). Compared to these fast-food flicks, 'Breakthrough' is a 7-course French banquet. It moves differently, looks different, all the while joining the 'buddy movie' genre. For those who enjoy everything from The Sting to Chan is Missing, it should be a highly pleasing ride, at the same time offering the viewer contact with some deeper-meaning stuff.

The two detectives, Sal and sidekick Yevgeny (perfectly played by Damien Bosco and Sean Bempong, respectively), go about the business of making clients happy with their snooping, solving personal difficulties more than any actual real crimes. You've got Mirabel, an attractive blond real estate agent apparently rolling in dough (deliciously performed by Jennifer Blakemore), who is suspicious of her live-in boyfriend's fidelity. A first impression allows the viewer to join in that suspicion; his aloofness and self-absorbed nature are a dead give-away. It's Sal's job to tail the guy and report back, so he puts his partner on the case. Yevgeny uses iPhone technology to make his own digital movie of the guy, who's caught walking with his other girlfriend, kissing her, which is just what we expected (so I'm not revealing too much). But among such clichéd scenarios this movie offers more. We hear solutions to life's bigger dilemmas, beyond just 'nailing a cheater.' Beneath the cloak-and-dagger of story or 'narrative,' the odd detectives start solving OUR modern problems. Are we cheating ourselves if we forgo our responsibly to be happy, being too driven by the almighty dollar? Is that not a crime? Yes, Mirabel may not have a faithful lover, but she's partially responsible, Sal points out, because without taking some time to actually enjoy her life how can she expect to have a good relationship.

The film indicates that we all need to re-examine our "Level of Happiness" and strive toward maintaining a better frame of mind, no matter what exterior forces affect our mood. That's one of the challenges the movie dumps at our feet. It turns out we may be responsible for the negative things that happen around us, if we don't follow our bliss.

Another client of the Sal-run detective agency are German siblings caught in a comical-yet-sad incestuous relationship (Clara Schmidt and Matthew Ryan make us believe…), who require Sal's expert (and expensive) services. He's hired to come up with a method to halt their lovemaking, in order to save their father's inheritance. And again, Sal invents a solution (I won't give this one away…). So, of course, it's no problem (if you're Sal!). His past life experiences, vast in creativity and topped off with a deep understanding of human complexity, allow him to not only fix relationships, but also mend his own partner's personal troubles.

Can Sal help Yevgeny address his writer's block? What advice can Sal possibly give to solve that old, "day-job vs. creative art-making" dilemma? The long walks the men take, with shots of New York cityscapes; highways, waterfront, streets and parks overlooking the city, allow us to eavesdrop on the soul-searching. Watch the image pan, dip and zoom, as if the movie's visuals were generated by the same investigatory iPhone used by Yevgeny on stakeouts. Throughout these journeys by foot, the lively music of Kevin Macleod keeps the movie's dependable and elegant heartbeat going. At any rate, Sal knows his stuff. "It's like Spinoza said, Don't weep, understand," he tells his partner along a deserted side street, adding, "You have to effortlessly glide through the obstacles in your life…like a great, big, floating squirrel."

When film critics Jim and Bob (Matt Saxon and David A. Steinberg play this great odd-couple) argue about the meaning of Mumblecore to their upcoming book project, one of them uses his magic powers to knock his partner out cold with a blast of energy from his hands. Sal is hired by the Mohawk-donned critic to confront his powerful partner, to talk the fellow wizard into lifting the harmful spell. Sal's so well versed in various techniques – old and new 'Merlin-style' wizardry – that nothing either surprises or confounds him.

While it's fun and entertaining to see unique solutions to these odd characters' problems, I found that Sal's pontifications coupled with his partner's soul-searching took me into deeper realms. Perhaps the viewer can let this clever narrative spill over into their real life, allowing some of this smart-wackiness to help overthrow any remaining excuses. We need to get on with the real job of creating art and music and literature – something more divine – in spite of our demanding day-jobs. Sal might simply say, "There's no time like the present to begin doing that."

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BREAKTHROUGH WEEKEND Teaser Trailer on Vimeo

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