Friday, January 8, 2010

Tank Girl

Fish Tank (2009) - Arnold
What a way to start 2010 film viewing! A fifteen year old Mia (played by newcomer Katie Jarvis) lives in an ugly housing project with her young floozy mom and her snappy younger sister. She has to endure typical teen in the rough 'hood stuff- physical fights with other girls, getting hammered, rough boys, a broken home and whatnot. She practices hip-hop dance moves alone in an abandoned apartment room in the hopes of getting somewhere. You can sense the danger when mom's new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender) crashes in their apartment and starts flirting with Mia.

A scottish filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Red Road) has a penchant getting natural acting out of her actors. It's a Shane Meadows film by way of Lynne Ramsay (Rat Catcher, Movern Callar) starring a teenage girl instead of a boy. Well, not quite. Arnold is less interested in social commentary nor lyricism. It's about the characters, their imperfections, their rawness accentuated by Robbie Ryan's full frame, gorgeous cinematography (silhouettes, impeccable framing- he shot Arnold's previous effort Red Road). With little close ups, the framing allows breathing room for actors and audiences.

What I liked the most here, same as in Red Road are the prolonged scenes after pivotal actions, be it sex or emotional experiences- typically they'd cut to the next day or next scene. In Fish Tank, the camera lingers over the scenes to play out, capturing all the unpredictable moments which are just as interesting if not more. It is revealed in Q & A after the show that Arnold didn't give actors the whole script. She fed them little by little on short notice and also a lot was improvised. Indeed, Fish Tank doesn't feel premeditated. The film is both raw and delicate in its presentation and performances. There are a lot of beautiful scenes in the movie but the family dance scene near the end I find most touching without ever being corny. Because of its great teenage actor, Fish Tank resonated much more for me than Red Road. Jarvis's Mia acts tough and is childish. But by the end, we feel she is too smart for the circumstances makes her out to be and remain hopeful for her.