Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Kyle Patrick Alvarez Interview

In anticipation of this Friday's release of EASIER WITH PRACTICE, which i have already reviewed, I was granted an interview with the debut director, Kyle Patrick Alvarez; allowing me the chance to discuss his influences, aspirations and future plans:


- What would you pinpoint as your influences/reference points for 'Easier With Practice'?

Visually, I definitely took a lot of inspiration from Wong Kar Wai, 'In the Mood for Love' in particular. I love how he'll use a single sustained image to imply so much and trusts the audience with his pacing. David Morrison and I also looked through a lot of photographs and we had a wall of images that inspired us.


- Was the shoot enjoyable or a steep learning curve for you?
I had done a lot of short/student films before, so I had a general sense of being on set and it some ways it was more enjoyable because it was the first time I actually had worked with a full crew, where I wasn't the director/cameraman/sound guy all at once. The learning for me really came in working with actors, cause it was the first time I dealt with professional actors. I always wanted to make sure to respect them and the challenges they face, but I would say that's where I learned the most, in learning how to talk and work with actors.


- What relationship did you have with David Morrison (DOP)?
My relationship with David was one of the strongest I had on set, and one I'm continuing with on my next films. He's just an extraordinary talent and works so collaboratively with everyone. It's rare to find such connectivity with another filmmaker so I'm excited to keep on making films with him.


- Were you worried about the pressure you put on Brian Geraghty's shoulders in terms of being on screen throughout?

I was never worried in terms of Brian's abilities, but just in that we all knew that those scenes were going to be so delicate and difficult to pull off. It's a lot to ask of an actor to sustain entire scenes the way he had to, but Brian was always on and prepared. In fact, the 10 minute take at the beginning of the film, was only the second time we ran through the scene. When we were auditioning actors for the film, we were primarily looking for watchability, that certain thing that pulls an audience in to an actor's performance. Brian has that in spades.


- Would you change anything now looking back?

I try not to watch my film in terms of what I'd change or not, since I can't, but I definitely learned a lot I hope to bring with me into my next films. Primarily on a writing level, of just learning to reduce dialogue down it's minimum necessities. It's a challenge to put on yourself, but so much extraneous dialogue got cut throughout the shooting and editing of the film. I've definitely learned how to write a tighter and more concise script.


- What is next for you?

I've got two projects I'm working on and hoping to shoot in the next year. One is a film based on a David Sedaris short story. He's been really gracious and open about letting me adapt his work, which I'm so grateful for. It's a dream project for me, so I'm putting my all into it. The other is a high concept thriller, that's going to be a real challenge and a total change of pace for me. I couldn't be more grateful to have the opportunity to make another film.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI

Max Ophuls one and only foray into Italian cinema during his European exodus from his homeland Germany following the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, brings us a film that fits nicely into his oeurve, but not necessarily one of his best work.

Ophuls is famed for his melodramatic work, involving female characters whom are downtrodden by society and are not blessed because their beauty is seemingly a curse and not a gift. 

Isa Miranda, plays the role of a star (in the part that made her a star) pressed to revisit the entire history of her lovers to the present moment through an inexorable web of flashbacks... brought on by the anaesthetic following a failed suicide attempt. From the record revolving on a turntable in the picture's opening moments, Ophuls sets into motion one of those roundelays with fate that he alone could pull off with such eminent elegance.  The film made in 1934, is startling in its use of flashback and differing fade in techniques are ahead of its time, we are fed different flashbacks and are granted a greater understanding of her desperate mishaps in love, starting with the unfortunate suicide of a teacher who loved her as a student up to all the men in her life from admirers to publicists to managers all hustling and bustling wishing for the best for her - whilst missing out on the fact that she is a person, not an object.

This serves as a contradictory point of Ophuls oeurve; he was a great admirer and lover of women, yet the films he made in Hollywood, for example, Letter from an Unknown Woman and The Reckless Moment clearly objectify women in the sense. The BFI issued 'Letter' earlier this year, the sheer melodrama whilst indicative of the 'Now Voyager' era, nevertheless the objectificaton of Joan Fontaine's character is very harsh and judgmental.  Isa Miranda's character is no different, attempting suicide to thrust the narrative into its flashback structure.  The film may argue it is a critique of a grande dame's narcissicm, but would any narcissist take their own life over the joy of seeing one's self again in the mirror.

The filmmaking contains strong thriller elements for psychological suspense and good use of offscreen sound, which would bode well for his Hollywood career, but the female(s) in his films although endangered, are supplied with memorable roles in the European pantheon.

The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present La signora di tutti [Everybody's Lady], the stunningly beautiful '30s masterpiece by famed auteur Max Ophuls (Letter from an Unknown Woman, The Reckless Moment, La ronde, The Earrings of Madame de..., Lola Mont├Ęs) starring the legendary Italian actress Isa Miranda. Released for the first time on DVD in the UK on 29 November 2010.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Where is the rain?

Where is the rain?
Where has it gone?
Will it come back again?
Its been so long.

The sun has shined for far too long
the temperature has risen and we all look brown.
We've got hot under the collar
and the burns are there to see.
We're tired of being perky
and sick of looking pink.

I see the clouds roll down from the coast
get here quick I miss you more than most.
The storm is coming and its starting to brew,
come on rain we've been waiting for you.

So pour down on me
so pour down on me
pour down on me.
Cos I haven't felt this way for so long
and I'm soaked right through to the bone
So pour down on me
rain down on me.

Look

I look at you one way
You look at me another.
One look is full of love
the other looks of desire.
Can't ignore it,
a look just like this
cos if we do
there will be no kiss.

Sitting here all by myself
searching for a reason
look at the cards
that have been dealt.
Then a bit of luck
comes to the fore
A queen of hearts
22 years old.

So i take a chance
maybe have a dance
not much to lose.
But the look she gave,
was one I'd save
wouldn't pick or choose.

So she looks at me
and i look at her.
Where else is there to turn.
Buy a drink
an invite for coffee
as the song plays on.

Look
i can't ignore
what I've seen before
this is my chance
at romance.
If she is the one,
there is no need to run.

Time Fly

Lets make time fly,
Time fly together
Time fly right out of the window
Lets hold hands, hold together
and never let go.

Always be there - in mind and spirit.
One way or another I'll be
I will be there by your side
though not actually.

But lets make time fly,
time fly together
Time flies lets sit on the wing
Lets drink to it,
drink together
and see what it brings.

If love is cruel,
then why is it kind
and speak for itself.
If i can see you,
then i am blind
Blind beyond belief.

Never be the one to choose
or make a decision you don't like.
Never be the one to decide whether to stay alive.
Cos you'll like it I know you will
more than I will
And before you know you would have grown wings
and can fly on your own.

Uniform

I see you with him when you are out,
laughing  and joking there is no doubt.
Kissing and canoodling in plain sight
of passers by who pass in the night.
Holding hands under the moonlight
tentative of this love thats arrived.
And I wish it were me.

Me to share those moments with
to make time fly together.
Cos we'll be having fun whatever the weather.
Cos ill be with you and he'll be alone
But I know the chances are slim,
of you picking me over him.
Cos a girl loves a guy in a uniform

Granted

This time I'm going to take you for granted.
Just like everyone else.
Gonna take you everywhere
show you off to anyone who will see.
Gonna take you for granted.

It's odd that you meet someone
when you are not ready
And when you're not ready
someone appears out of the blue
And when it happens you will clearly
And can't believe that it can be true.

So when I get you
I'm not going to let you go.
I'm gonna take you for granted
Just to let you know

There is a place

There's a place;
There's a time,
Where you go and you can be
By yourself or with someone you love

This place is the place you grew up
and the place you've never been before.
A place you're not scared of and
want to go see more of

You go there to rest your head
to stay away from your bed.
And when the day is done
you still remain
in this place at this time
That you know but never seen before.

PACQUIAO v MAYWEATHER

This past week, Bernard Hopkins, a man who is no stranger to changing his mind said an interesting thing. He stated that Pacquiao has never beaten a black African-American, to be fair he has never thought one, restricting himself to beating Latino Americans and Ricky Hatton.  Hopkins in a way has called out Floyd Mayweather Jr. saying that the Pacquiao problem needs to be addressed.  And in a way, it is not that Manny is a problem, but maybe his legacy and legend will never be properly fulfilled until he fights Mayweather. 

Yes, Manny has won a world title at (now) 8 different weight divisions.  Never been done before.
Yes, he is the best pound for pound fighter in the world right now, fighting regularly.
Yes, he retired Ricky Hatton.
Yes, he turned Margarito from a man imitating a shrivelling wreck, into a man who will think twice about fighting again.
Yes, Mayweather questions the ability of Pacquiao's ability to keep this longevity of his career.
Yes, Mayweather has backed down from Pacquiao, putting up a legal blockade as an excuse.

Much like David Haye, ducking the Klitschko's due to monetary reasons.  Haye wants a bigger slice of the purse, bigger than the one he gave Harrison, although this is now justified after watching that ridiculous spectacle; Mayweather who has boxing history in his bloodstream, must realise that boxing needs this fight. Sport in general needs this fight.  Much like Lewis-Tyson, they ducked and dived but that fight in Memphis was inevitable.  Whilst Pacquiao is making the noise due to him being in the spotlight, it is odd that Mayweather has gone mute on this recently. Maybe due to the fact that the last time he was heard from, he was being racist on a youtube link to Pacquiao.  Whilst shocking maybe his publicity machine is picking its moment.

Mayweather needs the fight, as Pacquiao has now fought twice since Mayweather last won.  Pacquiao in some circles has nothing left to prove; his hitting and punching ability is second to none, his ability to dictate the tempo of the fight was apparent against Margarito.  Margarito was at fault because he did not use his extreme height and reach to tower over the shorter Pacquiao, a fact proven when he did have him in trouble once against the ropes and corner. 

Mayweather will provide a different fight; he is methodical, elusive in defensive, but punishing in reaction especially to the body (cue Hatton again).  Pacquiao is unrelenting in his tracking down an opponent with his fists of granite, but he will have to chase Mayweather around the ring.  The tempo and chase he will not mind, but the need to land a punch will leave him open to mistakes.

In our imaginary minds, the fight is a bonafide classic up there with Hagler-Hearns, Leonard-Duran, Tyson-Holyfield I; before a contract is signed, before a profane remark is uttered, before a weigh-in, before a punch is thrown.  But until we hear from Mayweather, that is all we have.  Pacquiao as always has left the door ajar and he is not stopping Mayweather to break the door down.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

500 Days of Summer - A Story of Love

America, the country that brought us the romantic comedy has seemingly tried to dismantle its reputation in recent efforts with such banal efforts as 'The Sweetest Thing', any Jennifer Lopez film; it remains hard to believe that the most romantic of comedies was 'The 40 Year Old Virgin' where the focus was on the blossoming relationship between a man wanting to lose his virginity with great humility, rather than 'Good Luck Chuck' where it was all about sex, lust and nothing emotional.

In a way this is down to the narrative structure: we meet boy - boy meets girl in the 'meet cute' - they fall in love - they fall out - reconciliation - marriage (sometimes). Whilst the marriage was a more apparent resolution in the golden era of the 1930s and 40s (the comedy of remarriage) when it was in partnership (appropriately) with the screwball comedy.

With '500 Days of Summer' you get a film that is both typically an American film, yet at the same time atypical - there are French influences and disruption wiht the chronological order.   The films starts with day 200 odd, then we jump to 488, then back to day 1 to the meet cute.  But we already know that this couple are not destined to be together yet we are told the resolution before hand - this meddling with the status quo of the narrative structure may serve to alienate viewers especially female ones so used to the romantic storyline of 'love conquers all'; female acquaintances have told me that they did not get the story, why do we watch a story where they dont fall in love. This is not a love story, but a story of love: how love can make you, become you, make you joyful, make you suffer, make you love other things - so this reciprocates into other cultural formats such as music (hence the killer soundtrack), fashion and architecture.

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is 27 years old and stuck in a job he did not want to be in, writing greeting cards instead of the career in architecture he envisaged.  Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is a playful soul who does not want a serious relationship - people may argue this as misogynistic characterisation - nice enough to desire, impossible for asking for independence, then succumbing to the very things she mocked earlier in the film - love, fate and destiny.  Summer is a free spirit, but ultimately grounded once 'the one' arrives, this arrival of her soulmate is too abrupt to believe, hence why some female viewers did not connect with the film as planned.

Wearing its influences proud on its sleeve, parodying European influences from Nouvelle Vague to Antonioni; the soundtrack of bittersweet artists (The Smiths, Temper Trap). An individual bemoans his role in society, yet belives in such a sentimental trope like love so effortlessly as we see in the 'meet cute' and the film's conclusion when he looks at the camera a la Alfie, you await a wink that does not arrive but the breaking of the fourth wall works as the revolution of the romantic comedy has begun.

If only we could get Kate Hudson, Jennifer(s) Aniston and Lopez to take a risk and lets stop Amy Adams before she makes another 'Leap Year'. Comedy reflects the society it lives in, it needs to be socially conscious and more prevelant of the time - than a weak comedy with sex and fart jokes with real talent rather than Dane Cook.

'500' is reminiscent of a film from France you have never seen before drawing influence from Francois Ozon's '5x2', which used the narrative device of showing a relationship at the end up to its beginning concluding the film.

Witty but not self-congratulatory in its dissection of modern day relationships, funny without bordering on tasteless; acted with poise and skill, it is a film to cherish as well as recommend.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

BENTLEY NEEDS TO CLIP HIS WINGS

I do not want this blog to be totally restricted to a critical slant on filmmaking with its inevitable positives and negatives, I have other likes and dislikes of my own not restricted to the arts and culture.  A big cornerstone of my life has been taken up by my supporting of a football team, a sports team and its supporters embark on more high and lows over an entire season than a Wagner cycle retrospective, and certainly 90 minutes of fierce competition can stir things in the soul and the human spirit - wonder, disbelief, shock and awe are all in evidence.
With my brother in tow, I went to White Hart Lane (for 10 years in my early life, my Globe) for the first time in nearly 2 years to watch them play Sunderland in the Premier League, a game on paper we should be capable of winning especially as the Lane has become somewhat of a fortress since the start of Harry Redknapp's tenure in charge.  But Sunderland come into the game having won at home to Stoke at the weekend, and after our irrestible performance against Internazionale last week, we travelled to Bolton with a certain sense of complacency; but 4 changes and 4 leaked goals (3 gifted to them) meant we returned to the capital with our tails between our legs.  Tonights gave an opportunity to regain ground on the top 4 who are slowly opening up a gap in terms of points - and with a near full strength team starting, the omens are good.

And so the game begins, and as always we come hareing out of the traps full of determination and vigour wanting to stamp our authority against the Wearsiders, chances arrive, Huddlestone spreads the ball right and left. To Bale on the left wanting to overtake Onouha, to the right to Bentley who seeks the overlap from in form Hutton but too often the flow of play stops at Bentley's feet.  Inevitably, more ball goes to Van der Vaart and Modric as we attempt to go through the centre backs, Titus Bramble and the impressive Jordan Henderson.  Alas, Craig Gordon on his return to the team in goal for the visitors, his first game since ironically injurying his arm at this ground last season makes some fine stops from Bentley and even has the woodwork on his side as he stands rooted when Huddlestone's drive smacks the apex.  Half time arrives and deadlock is still in place.
2nd half and more of the same though not without controversy - five minutes in Bentley making an unusual hare into the box is fouled by Zenden, but Howard Webb deems it simulaton. Video replay show Bentley was going down, but did get kicked by the midfielder who did his best Paul Scholes impression.  Just after the hour, Spurs get the reward. A cross by Bale finds an unchallenged Crouch who heads down to his cohort VdV who pivots (with a hint of handball) and finds the net for his 7th league goal of the season.  Dominance should follow, but alas complacency and amateur defending seems to follow Spurs wherever a sense of superiority appears, a simple lack of possession should be dealt with by one of Kaboul and/or Gallas who both go for the same ball. In both leaving it, the door is open for Asamoah Gyan to clinically equalise.  Afterwards, the wind is out of Spurs' sails and they cannot make the second breakthrough and Sunderland nearly nick it near the end of the game.  But Spurs' lack of invention and initiative deems that apart from the dominant first half display they cannot moan about the point.

My gripe is the utilisation of David Bentley on the right hand side of the pitch, in the role usually reserved for (yet again injured) Aaron Lennon.  The thing is Bentley does have talent, but now he resembles someone who wants to fit in and help rather than work to the system of a team that has garnered success.  Spurs are now a quick counter punching team on the break using pace and finesse with a clinical edge in finishing.  Unfortunately, Bentley belongs to the old school of wing play or that which is reminiscent of one David Beckham. One who stops on the wide right 30 yards from the touchline and instead of taking on the defender caught in headlights who might be blinded by his pace, deems his quality of delivery good enough to make up for a lack of speed.  Wing play has morphed and transformed into something else now, you need only look at Bale and Lennon in the same team for evidence, and also look at Ronaldo, Daniel Alves on the continent of people who attack the byline and get the cross in causing an already backtracking defence to keep second guessing themselves.  Bentley is someone who always wants to impress, he took a free kick in the 2nd half on his favoured right foot; however, me and fans around me all knew that it would be closer to Jonny Wilkinson than top right hand corner, Gordon was untroubled.  I fear that Bentley (who was a Redknapp type of guy in personality) will remain in Spurs' fans affections for two things: for chancing his arm at the Emirates in the epic 4-4 draw embarrassing Almunia and for pouring sports drink over Redknapp when Champions League qualification was assured in his underpants.  He might follow the lead of another one who was good at a Premier League side before people caught on to him; Darren Huckerby last seen at Norwich in this country before leaving for MLS in America.

Whilst it is a shame that Bentley was called upon to fill a role, that I would have given to Krancjar a man with a bit of quality in spite of his lack of pace but his unrest at lack of first team starts meant he sat on the bench all night, not even warming up.  Redknapp is the man at the moment, but Bentley does not have the answers, unfortunately he provides more questions for a team that oddly seems to have the answers in European competition. That is so unlike Tottenham.  But then Spurs have never seemed to do things by convention. Maybe that is there appeal.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Forbidden Frank Capra

Frank Capra is considered one of the true heavyweights of American cinema in its history; well remembered for his directing of 'It's A Wonderful Life' in 1946, the relative lack of success for this film led to his gradual withdrawl from the mainstream American cinema. He slowed down in his production output and went into reclusion until the release of his biography 'The Name Above The Title', in the late 1970s which led to a reappraisal of his work and critical acclaim as the first truly American filmmaker; ironic, considering he was an Italian immigrant.

Capra's career is split into four parts - his youngling years where he was a gag writer and on the quick director for Mack Sennett and Harry Langdon; then his moving to Columbia Pictures where he would direct 7 films a year and attempt to find his feet in terms of stylistic and authorial voice, leading up to the unprecedented success of 'It Happened One Night' in 1934 which was the first film to win all 5 of the major awards at the Oscars - a feat only equalled twice since in 1975 and 1990. His third part are all the acclaimed and well remembered films that followed 1934 upto the beginning of America's involvement in the Second World War following Pearl Harbor in 1941. His fourth and final part are the war documentaries he made for the National Service and his films upon the return to normality culminating in James Stewart's most memorable role as George Bailey in Bedford Falls.

The British Film Institute (BFI) is running a two part retrospective of Capra's entire back catalogue, everything is on display from the gag writing five reelers for Langdon, to his work on poverty row for Harry Cohn in November. Choosing to split his career by placing 'IHON' as the schism of his career, in December come the Oscar winners and everyman features where the creation of 'CapraCorn' began a huge amount of sentimentality trying to be heard amongst the genuine social commentary. And fittingly the second part falls in December meaning Christmas time and the perfect occasion to watch his most cherished film.

Looking through the catalogue and seeing the films on display it is good to see titles I have not seen mixed in with some I have stumbled across by way of previous seasons, film school, personal cost or late night televison.  I have already seen 'American Madness', 'Meet John Doe', 'Mr.Smith..', 'You Can't Take It With You' and 'One Night', so I am taking it upon myself to see as much as possible when and if.

I have read copious amounts of Capra biography and critical theory especially 'The Catastrophe of Success' by Joseph McBride - which took each and every film on its own merits but came to the conclusion that his success came at a cost to his personal integrity, but also his self-belief that he was bigger than star hence his autobiography title. Capra was the first director who could open a film on the basis that his name was above the title, much like Hitchcock and Spielberg did eventually.  He was a star director, but in using another critical theorem, Cahiers du Cinema, he would not be considered an auteur in the same way contemporaries Ford and Hawks would be.  Capra's films are full of social comment meaning he was liked by the masses and served general appeal, but his desire to pursue Oscar winners in his later years do a discredit to his entire oeuvre, much like James Cameron's entire career boils down to 'Titanic' and 'Avatar' it is unfair to dismiss or pigeon hole a career to two films.  Lets not forget Capra did nearly 30 films, and did up to 7 films a year between 1925-30, unheard of then and unimaginable now.

I watched 'Forbidden' on Friday 5th at a matinee on the BFI Southbank, it starred Barbara Stanwyck in a typical melodramatic role of hers as Lulu who, unhappy with life, finds love on a cruise but with Bob who is married and has political aspirations, her decisions to keep their illegitimate child and to be the 'other' woman in his life in opposition to the invalid wife leads to a life unfulfilled and one of scorn.  The man becomes Governor of the state and she remains in the background as their child becomes the poster girl of his election ticket.  It is typical of Capra to take such a lowly character who seeks social elevation above their means, but it was unusual to see Capra doing melodrama to this extreme. At one point it become melodrama and he could not stop it becoming anything else, thanks in part to Stanwyck's performance (in my opinion this is more melodramatic than Stella Dallas, a film more fondly remembered by 'weepie' fans). 
      It is a flawed film with its share of distractions, not least Al (Ralph Bellamy) as the journalist soon to be editor who wants to take down Bob (Adolph Menjou) from his office knowing that he has a mistress on the side that dismisses his appeals for family values, what he does not realise is that the love of his life Lulu is the very same mistress. So you have a love triangle, where each person is out to destroy each other.  This age of destruction is not something you tend to notice in Capra's films; but the willingness to throw away people and use them for the individual's own personal improvement does become more apparent in later films such as 'Mr.Smith' and 'John Doe'; the individual is put in his/her place by the status ladder and the creation of a social order.  People wish to elevate themselves to a standing more suited to their ambitions, but once there that ambition comes back to haunt them.
     However, what is most striking about the film is the storyline and visual tropes that although made in 1932 seem to bare a striking resemblence to scenes and moments in 'Citizen Kane' which appeared nearly 10 years later. When Welles said he watched 'Stagecoach' numerous times to learn all he needed to know about film, did he forget to mention the debt to Capra. I speak of the politician who preaches family values yet has a mistress (like Kane did with Susan Alexander, leading to the death of his wife and child), and the tossing of incriminating evidence into the fire is reminiscent of Kane near that film's conclusion.  This all may be by the by but the similarity is startling.
     Be that as it may, the film does have some moments of emotion such as when they sit silently in the back of a taxi and as Menjou sits in the rain as Stanwyck walks away, you await the fade but she returns. These immoral lovers are granted moments of tenderness they do not deserve, this is indicative of the moral ambiguity of films pre-1934 and the Hays code but it does not sit well with other and later Capra films which are morally objective and toe the party line; but this emotion comes from the great performances by Stanwyck and Menjou, and the effective use of lighting and editing such as when Stanwyck unloads six chambers into someone, the crimson on her split lip is boiling as she fires the bullets.

'REDISCOVERING FRANK CAPRA' runs at the BFI Southbank (www.bfi.org.uk/southbank) until 30th December. Go to the website for full details and screen times.

EASIER WITH PRACTICE

Last Thursday (4/11/10) I was granted the privilege of watching a preview of a well reviewed film on the festival circuit. The film was EASIER WITH PRACTICE directed by feature length debutant Kyle Patrick Alvarez and is based upon the autobiographical essay by Davy Rothbart which was pulished in GQ.

A road movie (my first instinct was it reminded me of a younger version of 'Sideways') following Davy Mitchell (Brian Geraghty) as he treks across New Mexico reading at book clubs peddling his book of short stories entitled, 'Things People Do To Each Other'.  The book clubs smack of boredom, and with his brother Sean (Kel O'Neill) in tow the nights are long and full of bars with literature students adoring the young writer, whilst his engaged brother indulges in adultery.  From the outset, there is a difference and tension between the two brothers; one is intellectual, one is an easy going spirit. One is shy around women, the other has no sort of problems.  One night at another motel, Sean goes out to get some cigarettes and leaves Davy watching television and then the phone rings.  Davy answers it and a female voice is on the other end, she calls herself 'Nicole' and she is horny; Davy initially put off is intrigued and so starts entertaining her notions of masturbation.  And so we are met by one of the bravest scenes in recent American independent cinema; the camera is fixed on Davy, initially in long shot, it slowly zooms into have just his chest and head in the shot as he masturbates in unison with Nicole, culminating in a mutual climax. 

Often in independent cinema, there is a greater freedom and honesty with sexual activity (you need only see any mumblecore film for reference), but rarely do you see a male character(actor) do a scene that is so raw and real at the same time; a scene that could have been so easily played for laughs, tells us a lot more about Davy than any conversation with a periphery character.  Davy is lonely, but has love to give and finally feels like he has made a connection with someone, albeit with a voice somewhere.

Ultimately, the film leads to a climatic scene that is again a scene of such openness and social embarassment, the like of which is rarely seen in American film full stop.  The final reveal of Nicole is both powerful and startling, in that the twist is the last thing you saw coming. 

There is more drama than comedy, although the laughter is more witty than laugh out loud because of the urbane intellect of Davy's surroundings - if you were to pigeon hole the film it would be in the same vain as the work of James L. Brooks.

I would like to touch upon the character of Davy - whilst in theory and genre he is a million miles from the characters of the Apatow universe, he does provide a missing link in my theory of the 'Noughties Oh-No man', a character very prevelant in the first decade of this century's American cinema. He is an intellectual based on genuine talent, but nevertheless a talent that remains undiscovered, however, he is a man easily made a fool of by his peers and family (much like Andy in 'The 40 Year old Virgin'), and is but in context of his situation by contrasting him with an alpha male to his beta (in this film Sean is alpha to Davy).  Unfortunately, these highlighted flaws in his beings lead to him being unsuccessful in his career and love; such as when he attempts to reignite an old flame Samantha in the film.

Brian Geraghty, whom I first recognised getting high with Shia Labeouf in 'Bobby' and matured to appear in 'The Hurt Locker' gives an extrarordinary performance from an actor under the age of 30, he is still young in face but his manner shows a built in world-weariness that the character requires, but the requirement of him to be in every frame/scene of the film could have been a tough ask for a less accomplished actor. 

Alvarez who shows some assured footing in this his debut feature is lucky to have such a performance, but his sureness of touch and feel is good to see in a film that is both sincere and human.  Some of the scenes/montages which show Davy and Sean cruising around motorways and motels are expertly shot and remind me of music videos in there framing and composition, coupled with a hip indie soundtrack that full of male voices externalise most of Davy's feelings.

There are some moments that will leave you scratching or shaking your head in disbelief, but believe it not because you have to but because the conviction and honesty of both direction and performance commands it.  Recommended and try and hold out for the ending, unlike the two or so people who walked out shaking their head.

EASIER WITH PRACTICE is due for release on 3rd December 2010, a Forty Second Production it is distributed by Axiom Films, whom I thank for the preview seat.