Film Review: Brick
These days many people have a somewhat hazy notion of the words “film noir”. They may know it has something to do with old films, but for many it is most closely associated with the old OrangeTM commercial that ran just before the feature began on trips to the cinema. That advert voices the popular misconception that film noir has to be shot in black and white. In actual fact the “noir” is more to do with the pessimistic feel of these films that the colouring of the film stock.
Back in the 1940s though Film Noir” was where it was at. The war meant films had extremely low budgets, meaning expensive epics, or special effect laden movies were out of the question. Instead the modern detective novels became popular stories to film, and low lighting was used to hide cheaply built sets. The result was that a whole genre was invented. Private detectives, cynical about the world, and more than willing to bend the rules, investigated suspicious, and usually fairly convoluted, cases, aided or obstructed by intriguing femme fatales. The genre became so iconic that even once the war was over and Hollywood’s cash flow problems were over the genre was still in fashion, and even once its popularity declined, filmmakers have returned to it over the years.
The most recent entry to the genre is Rian Johnson’s Brick. Brick’s plot has all the elements of classic Film Noir, and yet also seeks to reinvent the genre. So the central character is world weary aplenty, yet he’s only in his mid–to-late teens. The complicated plot is rendered even harder to understand by the use of a type of code language and an almost alien teen dialect. The femme fatale is just as mysterious, but instead of dark, claustrophobic sets the story takes place largely outdoors. The hero’s laconic wit is counter-pointed by a kind of awkward comedy.
All of which gives the film a very unusual feel. At first the film’s style seems forced, pretentious, and hampered by ill-fitting acting. But as the plot thickens and the story draws you in you realise that the style is a cleverly designed part of the film. You quickly learn to live with the fact you’re not meant to understand every word, and that you’re meant to be as disorientated as the central character. The laboured manner of speech highlights the way the film crosses genres. The plot and the characters are pure Film Noir, the set is that of a high school romantic comedy, but the unrealistic emptiness of the sets captures something of the later westerns, where a lone hero stands in the face of impending anarchy.
It’s a very quirky film, even the title seems wrong (and will no doubt put plenty of people off it). It’s certainly so beautifully shot that it would be nice to see it in the cinema, yet, watching it on DVD brings the advantage of being able to re-watch the bits you missed first time around, so you can try and work out exactly what happened. Whilst its arty aesthetic won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the plot is more than gripping enough for those who are prepared to stick with it.
Posted by: Matt Page on Thursday Dec 14th, 2006
- Steve Meadwell writes:
Yes mate, really enjoyed watching it with u. Id agree with all that u hav said and agree that being able to go back to certain scenes after the film was both helpful and enjoyable. My tip for anyone who is interested in watching the film is to not watch it when you r looking to chill, watch it with more than yourself to help reflect after and stick with the film as im sure some people could of turned it off after 20 mins, the reward is in seeing it out.
...left on Saturday Dec 16th, 2006
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