Movie Reviews - 10/02

UNCORKED, (2011)

A film crew captures a forty-minute monologue by a gregarious drunk in a park. Phil Hall wrote and directed the piece, much of which feels like it was invented impromptu in front of the camera. While doing an impression of a drunk is hardly the most ambitious foundation for a film, at least it can be said that the film never bores. Eric Michael Schrader directs. Rating: Good. (Full disclosure: Phil Hall is an acquaintance of mine through the On-line Film Critics Society who asked if I would want to see and review his film.)

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Alan Bennett is the master of monologues in Britain and much of his work has been on British radio, TV, or the stage. His series "Talking Heads" is a series of one-act, one-actor monolog plays. On the surface they seem like pointless ramblings of flawed people, but generally they getting around to carving a character. That seems to be the sort of thing that Phil Hall was trying to do with UNCORKED. Hall wrote and performs the monolog. In fact, what Hall has here would make a better radio play than a film. The visuals' contribution is only a small one. The camerawork is intentionally crude, moving in for a close-up and backing away. When a squirrel comes by the cameraman's attention drifts to the squirrel. This all creates a feel of a quick, unplanned shoot.

Apparently the idea is that a camera crew has found an alcoholic (Hall) sitting in a public park drinking from a bottle and the crew just films what he says for forty minutes. His talk runs from his health and his wife trying to get him to stop smoking and drinking. He shares his reminiscences of a dwarf he knew and wonders is there a way to turn a dwarf into a bigger person. He flits from one subject to the next like a fly buzzing around a room. The intention is just to show the drunk's amiable personality as he talks about his experiences and his odd ideas.

In some places there are problems with the logic of the film. Either we are watching the encounter through the camera or we are watching it through the eye of a human observer. The director takes care to show us a sound boom so that we are supposedly watching through the camera, but when the observer nods yes or no the picture bobs up and down or right to left. At the risk of sounding like Dustin Hoffman's tomato diatribe from TOOTSIE, cameras don't nod. People nod; cameras do not. Also when a boy crossing in the background sees the camera he waves at it, and that was left in the film.

The film's production notes say that the film was made in an hour in a park in New Haven at the cost of $10. That apparently went for a prop bottle of cognac. At the end of the film we have been momentarily entertained, but our understanding the character has not changed much. We have a better feel for his personality, but that is about all. I generally rate the short films as: excellent (E), very good (VG), good (G), fair (F), or and poor (P). I would rate UNCORKED as Good.

By Mark R. Leeper © 2011

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