James Ponsoldt is a talented filmmaker. With “The Spectacular Now,” Ponsoldt crafted a film with characters that were so well written, and a story about people that felt completely real – I couldn’t wait to see what came next. “The End of the Tour,” does it again.
Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film is a love letter to instant photography. What seems to have started as an extended eulogy to the medium, the film evolves from various Polaroid Photographers talking about their love for Polaroid, to a chronicle of the efforts to save it from fading away forever.
Interviewing Polaroid artists, and former employees of the company, we get a great sense of the passion these people had for Polaroid and their cameras. Rather than constantly cutting between various voices, director Grant Hamilton stays with each interviewee, giving every single person ample time to reflect on, when they started using it, why they love it, and how the medium disappearing effects them.
The drawback to telling the story this way, many of the speakers echo/repeat the thoughts of others. But it is clear that the film began as a collection of voices. But as Hamilton revealed during the IFFBoston Q&A, as the closing of the plants neared, the “Impossible Project,” began. He does an amazing job capturing the grass-root efforts to keep the format alive. People truly working against all odds, all to save their format of choice.
We learn quite a bit about Dr. Edwin Land, the inventor of Polaroid instant photography. I would have loved to learn more about the company and its corporate history, but again, the film is more about the enthusiasts and artists that love Polaroid photography.
I really enjoyed the film, it’s always amazing to see how passionate people are about the photo-chemical process. Polaroid being an even more unique part of that tangible, printed photo world.
If you’re a fan of Polaroid, or even someone who has a love of photography, and preservation of the photo-chemical way – you will definitely enjoy this love letter to an art that almost went away.
Andrew Bird is a unique artist and performer. I went into Fever Year knowing very little about him beyond what I’d seen in the trailer for the film, and I left the theater knowing only a little bit more. This isn’t a bad thing however, because I don’t believe Fever Year set out to be a biography of Bird’s life. To me, the film is a window into Bird as an artist, and into his creative process.
The film, commissioned by Andrew Bird, is essentially a concert film. Capturing a performance at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. We go back and forth from him on stage, to practicing and setting up for the show, and even collaborating with his supporting acts. We travel with Bird to his family home on a farm in Illinois, capturing an intimate moment as he develops and records a song – and sit with him as he talks about his life and history as a performer.
He’s a unique artist, and I don’t think I can place him in a particular genre. His music ranges from indie rock to folk, and the film does a great job of capturing his performances. Bird combines guitar, voice, whistling, and violin to create a beautiful unique sound that stays with you.
Director Xan Aranda’s touch is delicate, we are involved but we are removed, much of the film feels like we are a fly on the wall – watching Andrew Bird exist in his environment. The film is lensed beautifully, the organically shot concert footage melds perfectly with the rest of the documentary footage. Aranda had access to some archival footage of Bird earlier in life, and makes great use of it. Everything about the film fits together with precision.
Bird at one point in the film sums up exactly how I felt about this film. His music is very personal, but he doesn’t really like to go into it – his work says everything he needs to and wants to say, and so does Fever Year.
Click for a Q&A with Xan Aranda that followed the IFFBoston screening!
Matt Pandamiglio (Birbiglia), is a struggling comedian, stuck behind a bar serving drinks at a New York City comedy club. His long-time girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose), is supportive, but frustrated with Matt’s unwillingness to move their relationship forward. Given the opportunity to get on stage to tell a few jokes, Matt struggles for a laugh from the audience.
Matt also begins having sleepwalking episodes that grow increasingly dangerous, starting as kicking a hamper he thinks to be a jackal, and jumping off a table.
A chance encounter gets him booked at a comedy club in upstate New York, where he stumbles upon new material, expressing his fears about marriage and commitment to big laughs. So begins Matt’s journey, touring thousands of miles at a time, using his own life and problems as his material.