Choking Man
R1 - America - Film Movement
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (6th August 2008).
The Film

In the latest installment from the Film Movement DVD series, this DVD production company has strangely reunited me with Steve Barron, director of some of the most famous music videos of the 80’s and one of my personal favorite childhood films “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” His latest effort, “Choking Man” (2006) represents the sixth film in the sixth year in the film movement series and is visually pretty interesting despite some lackluster writing.

The general plot follows Jorge (Octavio Gómez Berríos), an Ecuadorian dishwasher in Jamaica, Queens who is extremely shy and for the most part has been content to just hide away and wash dishes in the restaurant he works in. When the restaurant owner hires Amy (Eugenia Yuan) as the new waitress, Jorge falls in love and tries to overcome his shyness to talk to her. Unfortunately one of Jorge’s co-workers has also become smitten with the Chinese waitress, but he is far more outgoing than Jorge and the two awkwardly vie for her affections.

The plot and characterization itself isn’t so interesting or well orchestrated, many aspects of the love story angle are fairly generic, but the plot idea itself is kind of interesting in terms of the communication barrier that exists between Jorge and Amy in some different ways and how they bond. There are some really interesting scenes in Spanish when Jorge returns to his apartment and his roommate plays the part of his conscious/the devil’s advocate in trying to get him to be less shy while at the same time pushing him to talk to Amy.

Visually the movie has a good feel, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from the man who directed A-ha’s “Take On Me” video. There are some obvious connections in some of the animated interludes that gradually seep into the movie little by little moving towards the end of the movie. The directing in and around the diner is fine, nothing spectacular, but there is some interesting atmosphere and cool lighting in the scenes that take place in Jorge’s apartment during the dialogue between him and his roommate. There’s a good use of awkward close ups on Jorge’s face to exaggerate his awkwardness and shyness, but the aforementioned animated sequences really pop.

Berríos does a good job with the awkwardness and silence of Jorge, but I think that Yuan has a more standout performance in a movie that should center more on Jorge. I think both actors do a fine job of bringing the script to the screen, but I feel like it’s the flaws in the script that don’t allow a fuller picture of Jorge. There’s an odd performance from Mandy Patinkin as the restaurant owner, but he seems to be playing more of a role for the purpose of lending his name to a crew of unknown actors for an independent movie, rather than cast for the part as the owner doesn’t do a lot in the movie at all.

Overall “Choking Man” (2006) is visually interesting with a mostly bland plot and characterization. The scenes in the apartment are interesting and the relationship drama has potential, but the film never really capitalizes on these points through the movie and builds to a conclusion where it becomes more apparent that the film may never have intended to build on these points. Despite all this, some of the animation and visual styling in the movie are worth checking out.

Video

Presented in 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic aspect ratio, the video quality of "Choking Man" is good, especially for an independent movie with a smaller budget. The animation sequences make the colors really pop and offer the best quality. There are some color schemes where the transfer doesn’t look so great and the quality of the film becomes a bit overcome with grain and minor distortion, but these are fairly few and far between.

Audio

“Choking Man” is presented with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track, which does a good job of getting across the music and ambient sounds of the movie. The soundtrack of the movie is fairly good and sounds good in the quality of the sound. There aren’t really any problems with levels or the quality dropping out, there are also scenes presented in Spanish dialogue that are subtitled during the film. There is also an optional English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound track.

Extras

The Film Movement Discs typically come packaged with an additional short film, a promo spot, some biographies, the film's theatrical trailer and some bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

This month’s installment it’s an animated short film entitled “The Boy with No Name” which runs for around 5 minutes and 28 seconds and is created with more traditional hand drawn style. The story follows a strange boy with arms on his head who discovers a strange other world, all told in the style of a Dr. Seuss poem mixed in with the animation and dark sensibilities of Jhonen Vasquez. A worthwhile animated short that would be better served trying to get into the next run of “The Animation Show” (2003-Present).

There’s also a Stella Artois presents "SWAG” promo spot which runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds, which calls itself a short film that could be about to bank robbers, but it’s really an ad for Stella Artois.

Listed in the special features there is a collection of biographies viewable from the menu. The biographies are available for:

- Director Steve Barron
- Assistant Director Joshua Zeman
- Producer Zachary Mortensen
- Cinematographer Antoine Vivas-Denisov
- Actor Octavio Gómez Berríos
- Actress Eugenia Yuan
- Actor Aaron Paul
- Actor Mandy Patinkin

The theatrical trailer for “Choking Man” is also available, it runs for 2 minutes and 14 seconds.

There are also three start-up bonus trailers for:

- “XXY” runs for 1 minute and 20 seconds.
- “Noise” runs for 2 minutes and 11 seconds.
- “August the First” runs for 1 minute and 58 seconds.
- "Film Movement" spot runs for 31 seconds.

Overall

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

 


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