JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Quick Takes: D'Agostino, Big Bad Wolves, The Happy Sad (Directors: Jorge Ameer, Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, Rodney Evans) - May 31, 2015

Quick Takes: D'Agostino, Big Bad Wolves, The Happy Sad

4.5 4.5

Quick takes from around the globe

Jorge Ameer (2012)
124 min. Four and one half stars

Man’s best man

From the highly inventive mind of Ameer (cross-reference below) comes a truly fantastic tale of a man who hates mankind (Keith Roenke as Alan) and whose life is turned upside down owing to an inheritance from his grandmother of a property in Greece. While his stoic girlfriend (Torie Tyson) stays home in the UK to “pay the bills” (or there’d be no movie), Alan investigates the newly acquired real estate solo, only to discover that he has company: a human clone (“D’Agostino,” according to the dog tag), hovering in filth in the spare room.

As curious as the premise is, Ameer takes full advantage of his own story to investigate human bondage (it’s collar and leash for the young, test tube man who prefers to move about on all fours and eat from a bowl), sadomasochism (notably the masturbation lesson that goes terribly wrong), tough love (the clone must obey!), hidden away desires (on many planes), along with the morality of “growing” a human being in order for the wealthy to harvest some first-rate body parts…

The pace is purposely slow (and will send some to the exits who haven’t the patience for letting things reveal themselves gradually), the Greek scenery is just as spectacular as the travel brochures declaim and the music (especially the lyric-supportive songs from Nu Savant) adds just enough spice to keep the ear engaged while the mind reflects when no tracks are present (the dialogue is also sparse).

One very effective, subliminal touch from Ameer is focusing the camera on real dogs in the street even as Alan begins raising his two-legged “pet,” then switching to cats when the final “offering” is being planned.

The real showstopper is Michael Angels’ performance in the title role. Courageously buck naked for most of the production, the savvy actor totally convinces as the dim witted, confused “man’s best friend” before his final metamorphosis (don’t miss the superbly rendered mirror scene) prepares the way for a finish that most certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. JWR

Production photo

Big Bad Wolves
Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado (2013)
110 min. Three and one half stars

Four different dads

Directors-writers Keshales and Papushado have attempted to create a taut thriller centring on cruelly murdered children. Pretty much in balance are the grizzly attacks on innocent girls and the brutal revenge exacted on the prime suspect (Rotem Keinan doing a fine portrayal of the did-he?/didn’t- he? school teacher whose own daughter is at arm’s length). Playing the tough cop who isn’t averse to drawing confessions the old-fashioned way (fuelling the sub-plot of rogue policemen) is Lior Ashkenazi whose apparent resourcefulness in seeking justice (even when, temporarily, a civilian) is hampered by a few too many scenes where the relentless truth seeker is easily manipulated (his daughter is also less than available to the sometime dad, except when his chauffeuring services suit the unseen mom’s schedule to a T).

Likewise the father of the girl whose repulsive death brings everyone together (Tzahi Grad very much savouring his descent into darkness)—even his own dad, which triggers one of the film’s more bizarre twists/conversion—was MIA on the day of his beloved’s abduction.

Certainly not for the faint of heart (the torture is shown in all of its gruesome ugliness), many will enjoy the production’s crisp pace, beautifully angled cinematography (Giora Bejach) and a score (Frank Ilfman) that finds as much drama and tension as the cast. Sadly, the frequent attempts at humour to relieve the action often miss their mark rather than provide a respite before the next atrocity. JWR

Production photo

The Happy Sad
Rodney Evans (2012)
86 min. Three stars

The dangers of want

Anyone who has ever strayed from a committed relationship would do well to have a look at this tale of “open and honest runs amuck.”

Two couples, one gay and committed, the other pretty much hetero but searching…intertwine their lives and their bedmates to near-disastrous effect.

Marcus and Aaron (LeRoy McClain, Charlie Barnett), after six years of fidelity and bliss agree to spice things up by entering into an open relationship. Just two rules: no second helpings; don’t fall in love.

Annie and Stan (Sorel Carradine, Cameron Scoggins), both explore their bi sides with the heady ecstasy of fulfilling a hitherto unsatisfied want but only find more and more confusion when their sometime partners put their clothes back on and ask for more than just release.

Gluing much of Evans’ variable production together is Stan as singer-songwriter (best of show being the opening sequence, ending with a breakup that immediately sets the stage for exploration number 1). Trouble is, Scoggins’ vocals grate on the ear rather than reinforce the drama all around him.

Subplots from screenwriter Ken Urban (who also wrote the stage play) include a blind date from hell (with—via social media—a very dark payoff) and the severe health issues of unseen parents (whose dire straits fuel much of the comic relief), add welcome contrast as the couples try to sort themselves out. An overabundance of situational coincidence stretches credibility even as it allows points about the perils of lying and snooping on partners’ computers to be made.

It’s all food for thought: Should I do whatever I want since I won’t live to be 1,000 or repress my inner voices and just go with the expected flow? JWR

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