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🎬 #97 High Concept, Low Budget.
Imagination knows no bounds in film. Especially those that have a very ambitious, ‘high’ concept. And when you discover a film that achieves this on a modest / low budget it’s even more impressive. This week’s two films are a celebration of that achievement.
Happy choosing, happy viewing
FILM ONE: AFTER LIFE
1998 Dir Kore-eda Hirokazu
[1hr 59 mins]
I’ve wanted to see this film for a long time and I recently caught a screening of it in London at the lovely Japan House. This is Kore-eda’s second film, and he applies his trademark ‘documentary-esque’ choices to an amazing concept. The central idea is that when someone dies they go to a facility where they can view their entire life on video tape, they must then select their favourite memory which they’ll then live in forever. Great idea.
What’s so special is that Kore-eda handles it as realistically as he would any of his other projects. The after life is an administration building where friendly facilitators help you find and recreate your favourite memories, there’s dust and grime and mud and they complain about their jobs like they’re office workers. The film also acts as an analogue for the filmmaking process, a team of people come together to make a vision as perfect to the people’s memory as they can. Then they film it so that the dead person can relive it in the next stage of the after life. This is a film as imaginative as it is touching, a sweet, thoughtful look into how people view their life after it’s gone.
TL;DR Walk away from the film with a new found appreciation for staying in the moment and creating memories you’d be happy to be a part of, forever.
*Available for subscribers to stream on The Criterion Channel in the US and on Apple, Amazon and BFI Player in the UK.
Fact: Many of the interview segments that make up a big portion of the film where impromptu, done with non-actors who were simply reminiscing about their life.
FILM TWO: MONSTERS
2010 Dir Gareth Edwards
This was his debut feature and like Kore-eda, he approaches a big world defining concept with a distinctly documentary method. Edwards would even tell his cast of non-actors to tell a story about a real event that he knew would play well in the film.
This gives Monsters an authenticity that helps make everything feel very grounded and believable - even in a monster movie, which it is. It’s also a road movie and romance - it’s not a film that’s about the Monsters, it’s about a central relationship that plays out with Monsters lurking in the background.
It’s a quest film that gradually reveals more of the world we’ve been promised, the threat of the aliens submerged in jungle shadows - all aided by Edwards’ preference for CGI that’s appropriate to the world and feels real - not just created for the sake of spectacle. Whether it’s performance, CGI, or production modality - this film proves that taking a swing at high concept with a low budget mindset can yield really interesting results.
TL;DR See how Edwards started off with an impressive film that, for all it’s high concept, is matched by a realism that makes everything feel down to earth.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US as well as the UK.
Fact: There was no finished script for the film, instead there was an outline with scenes as suggestions - the actors knew which story beats they had to hit but the rest was improvised.
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