La casa muda
starring Florencia Colucci, Abel Tripaldi, Gustavo Alonso, María Salazar
screenplay by Oscar Estévez
directed by Gustavo Hernández
starring Stephen Spinella, Roxanne Mesquida, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser
written and directed by Quentin Dupieux
by Walter Chaw Billed as being filmed in a single shot (though the skeptical--and those taken in by the "unedited" long takes of Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men--should wonder why an editor is credited), Gustavo Hernández's zero-budget conceptual experiment The Silent House (La casa mudi) has found a way not only to suggest a gimmick successfully carried through, but also to weave that gimmick into a richer thematic tapestry. Here, the digital camera isn't carried by a protagonist, Blair Witch-like, but instead floats around the victim of the movie's horrors, one Laura (Florencia Colucci), who's endeavouring with father Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) to clean up an old abandoned house in preparation of its sale. The camera does take on the point-of-view of someone at some point, then jumps back to an objective place, then plays that trick Evil Dead II plays with perspective in the scene where Ash wakes up in a clearing and looks around in a panning 360-degree take, only for the audience to discover that the camera eye is both character and commentator, more physical in its way than a first-person point-of-view could ever be. In a genre dependent on cutting for its scares, in fact, The Silent House's accomplishments are all the more impressive. It's suffocating (I'd never considered how liberating edits were from a complete immersion into a film) and at times unbearably tense--and though some will point to the airlessness of Hitch's Rope or the fluid choreography of Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark, The Silent House is a different beast altogether.
Less fun though aspiring to be as meta, Quentin Dupieux's too-cool-for-school Rubber believes itself to be saying something when in actuality it's just some dick swilling rosé at a Soho garden party, stroking its goatee and going on about the Buñuelian aspects of Cronenberg's tax-shelter period. Boring? At least boring. Worse, there's this arrogance to its desire to deconstruct that smacks of a less-witty "Mystery Science 3000". So this abandoned car tire comes to sentient life, see, discovers it can kill things by "thinking" at them really hard, Scanners-like, and goes on a three-day killing spree in a desert backwater. Complicating things, there's a group of spectators on a hill overlooking the action to snark about the drama unfolding ("Hey, you can't film the film as it's filming!"), with chief gadfly Wings Hauser making a lot of trouble for the makers of Rubber's film-within-a-film by not losing interest in a film that everyone openly declares is stupid and poorly made. But all of it's stupid and poorly made; an opening monologue about the many inconsistencies and suspensions of disbelief required to appreciate any movie tickles at provocation but is fast jettisoned by a picture content to cast stones. It's possible of course to project upon the story of a car tire going through the mimic, psychosexual motions of inexorable bogeys like Michael Myers a consideration of the literal blank-screen process we do with all our little horrors, but Rubber doesn't earn that kind of respect. Part of the irony is that the Cronenberg flicks it seems to most want to attack (A History of Violence, in particular) have already taken on the type of self-reflection that Rubber attempts with none of its open contempt and self-satisfaction. It's a hipster movie, affectedly exhausted and cocksure with no justification for it. And like anything hipster, you sort of want to kick it in the teeth. Originally published: May 25, 2011.