26.January.2012:A few days after Craig Zobel’s Compliance sparked a heated volley during its Sundance Q&A, the critics are responding with more evenhanded assessments. The plot, inspired by real events and the Milgram experiment, concerns the rapid escalation of abuse after a prank caller posing as a police officer persuades a fast food restaurant manager that a female employee is a thief and subject to strip search. “As exploitative as it may be of an audience’s good will,” Karina Longworth writes, “Compliance is not an exploitation film, exactly; it’s a more of a procedural, an anatomy of how systemic everyday exploitation is the perfect breeding ground for extraordinary exploitation.” Anthony Kaufman writes that “this nasty enervating movie is really sticking.” He’s left with plenty of caveats but also admiration: “While Compliance strains credibility at times…the film builds to a brilliant pair of totally unexpected scenes that cement the story’s themes of control and unaccountability that we’ve seen again and again in our society, from the torture chambers of Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo to the evisceration of our economy and our natural resources by Corporate America.” Bilge Ebiri talks with Zobel about the Sundance audience: “At yesterday’s screening, the first person to yell out was this woman who screamed, ‘Rape is not entertainment!’ And I was like, ‘I agree! Why are we yelling?’ But she left the theater without waiting a response.”
With Slamdance wrapping today, it’s a good time to catch up with the first part of Brandon Harris’s overview for Filmmaker: “After surveying a third of the ten narratives and eight documentaries in the always eclectically programmed festival’s 2012 slate, no true standout has emerged, although a number of solid efforts are on display.” He counts among them Welcome to Pine Hill, Ok, Good, and Kelly.
“To her recollection, the Siren has never posted about an Oscar race, as opposed to the ceremony, but there’s a first time for everything,” blogs Farran Smith Nehme at Self-Styled Siren. In particular, she’s fed up with critics’ smug complaints about Hugo and The Artist’s unabashed romancing of film history:
“Let’s rewind the reel…Outside the major cities, the revival house is on the verge of extinction, and the people running the few that survive tell bloodcurdling tales of their struggles to obtain prints. Thirty-five millimeter is about to bite the dust (read here and sign the petition, the Siren hasn’t even the heart to summarize). There is an overwhelming tilt toward the new on the big, high-traffic movie sites. About four years ago, Internet film writers—cinephiles, in other words, mostly young ones—were surveyed to compile a list of the 100 best films; two-thirds of the films selected were produced after 1970. In light of all that, if you have a problem with a few minutes of people talking about light passing through film or the magic of the movies or whatever, while some old clips scroll by at the Kodak Theatre, then what the Siren says to you is suck it up.”