Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Premier Screening of "The Approach"

Viewing the premiere showing of a film is an invigorating experience. Even screening a poor film can be exciting when an entire audience is watching the movie for the first time and the talent behind the production are seated with the viewers. I was at Grauman's in Hollywood for the premiere of Gary Marshall's Valentine's Day. I was writing film critique then for a local newspaper and I gave the review appropriate to its shallow, messy narrative - but what a time it was! The whole of Hollywood was in that movie and you can't help but enjoy yourself a little when Julia Roberts and Jim Belushi are seated a couple rows behind you, even if what Taylor Lautner or Ashton Kutcher are doing on the screen in front of you is abysmal at best. And then add Jessicas Alba and Biel sauntering down the isle next to you . . .

Whether the energy is negative or positive - it is simply more abundant at a premiere. People clap and smile easily - they laugh or cry; generally willing to do whatever is required of them.

The atmosphere is much the same with student films. There are no celebrities and million dollar budgets, but there are plenty of proud friends and nervous, tired students. Generally, in the beginning,  the student film has attracted only "movie people" and the families of movie people so the audience is eager, focused, and ready to delve out praise whether it is deserved or not.

With The Approach I'd prepared myself to smile and clap no matter what happened, so I was both pleased and relieved when the Dixie State documentary class played a surprisingly savvy 40min documentary short.

I was impressed directly with the shots pouring over the red mountains of Southern Utah, setting the backdrop for the documentary on rock climbing in the scenic canyons. The choice of rock climbing as the subject of the student film is a fitting choice. It is such a visceral sport, allowing for an array of wide, sunlit shots and sweeping landscapes. It also serves as a bit of compensation for the lack of a large budget.

 I say the documentary's subject was rock climbing, but thankfully that is not true. The Approach wisely avoids consideration of different climbs or equipment and instead lets unfold a much more interesting analysis on the way people choose to pursue their passion for rock climbing. It is a tribute to the film that for the most part the directing and editing permit this to occur organically. No text is imposed on the screen to tell us the names of people or locations, rather these are given way to speak for themselves.

The only trouble The Approach really hits is when it tries to restrain the story to something it isn't. It does this in two ways the first is an opening that tells us the movie will be about two people - it decidedly is not and saying that it is only serves to confuse the audience. The second way is through a sort of poetic narration that seems to interject itself because, well because isn't that how documentaries work? The story told itself well enough that much of the narration felt very misplaced and coddling.

In the end I found that the film raised questions in my mind. It invited reflection on how we as a society (and I myself) approach life and its passions. Any film that can invite that introspection has succeeded on some level. 

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