Simple Curve (A)
R1 - America - Film Movement
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (20th November 2007).
The Film

The very cool Film Movement series is a subscription service that sends out a DVD every month, each containing an indie film and a short film. "A Simple Curve" is Year 4, Film 12.

Jim is a 55-year old former hippie (played by Michael Hogan : "Battlestar Galactica's" (2004-Present) Colonel Tigh!) who fled the Vietnam draft and built himself a log cabin in rural British Columbia. Since then, he has become an obsessive if extremely skilled woodworker, who insists on maintaining only the highest possible standards of work. His son Caleb (Kris Lemche) is running the business end of their woodworking shop, and is trying to keep a roof over their heads as the store struggles. The idealistic Jim is continually placing pride in his work over the necessities of keeping a business going and wen the two men are down to their last dollar, an old friend of Jim's named Matthew (Matt Craven) steps into the picture, and works with Caleb to formulate a new business plan. In the process of turning things around for himself and his father financially, Caleb turns his own life upside down emotionally.
It seems that the 27-year old Caleb has had almost no women in his life. His father may not be his father. He gets into trouble with a couple of young hippies that his dad takes a shine to. His new maybe-girlfriend is a single mom with trust issues who falls asleep on their first date. His business is failing. His car is falling apart. His mother is dead. He has never really left his home town. Caleb also has no working toilet at home. Cry me a river! Over the course of the 92 minute film, he has to face all of this, and become a man... or not.
The strength of this movie is in the effortless cinematography of David Geddes. I say effortless, because it was filmed in Slocan Valley, British Columbia, and the scenery up there is astounding. I believe that Geddes could have pointed the camera just about anywhere, and captured something that puts the very best lush mountain scenery of "Twin Peaks" (1990-1991) to shame. You're going to want to live there, or at least visit there, after watching this flick. If you're into wood, you'll dig this one too. These people really, really care about their wood.
This largely autobiographical feature was the second full-length production for director Aubrey Nealon. The direction is fine, but is tripped up by Lemche. In the lead role, he is often, um, wooden (sorry!), and I had a lot of trouble buying his problems as being authentic. Coming-of-age films are fine, but the idea that this boy-man is still confronting the problems that he does, even as he nears his thirtieth birthday, is a little bit pathetic. If he lived in the city rather than the amazing green mountains of Slocan Valley, we'd have to call him an Emo kid. Ultimately, I cared a lot more about Jim's character than Caleb's. Jim has a story, a history, and is a fully formed individual, whereas Caleb is just whiny and half-baked. As Jim, Hogan is (at times) almost as gruff here as he is in "Battlestar Galactica", but we also occasionally see a warmer side, and even the occasional smile.
I also had a few problems with the script; there are a few points at which dialogue was a little bit forced, and character motivations were a bit unclear.


Geddes' lovely 1.78:1 camerawork is suitably transferred anamorphically. Images are bright and clean with vividly saturated colors. The disc has no distracting flaws in the source print, nor any notable compression issues.


Sound on the main feature is in either English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo or in English Dolby Digital 5.1. English is the only language. The film is pretty sparse in the sound department, being driven mostly by dialogue and occasional doses of some reasonably generic alt-rock music. Dialogue is clear enough. The 5.1 track doesn't seem to add much to the experience of viewing this film.
There are no subtitles at all.


Extras are minimal here, with just some cast and crew bios, plus two bonus trailers for other Film Movement titles : "Manito" (1:56) and "Middle of the World" (2:30) -- and of course the short film of the month, "Lucky" (18:00).

"Lucky" (2005) was lensed by Avie Luthra, and concerns a little Zulu boy (Joy Mwandla) who leaves his rural homestead to live with his neglectful and indifferent uncle in the city of Durban. Lucky's mother has died of AIDS. The fact that Lucky's uncle has it too does not stop the man from seducing a local girl and sleeping with her. Lucky befriends an elderly Indian woman who hates 'black dogs', but is also compassionate enough to feed the starving little boy. As the film closes, they perhaps begin to understand and even need each other.
"Lucky" is melancholic and a bit depressing. At no point in the movie, including the end, do we fell that this boy has any hope of a decent life, at all. Clearly, Luthra is trying to raise awareness for the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Showing us the fate of Lucky (irony noted), we may come to realize that there are many thousands of real-life Luckies out there who are, basically, doomed.
Of course what we have here are two movies about guys leaving home and dealing with messed up families (and dead mothers). Lucky and Caleb could not be more different from each other, and yet it seems that the problems that they share are universal.


The Film: B Video: A Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: B-


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