Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983. (2010) Anand Tucker

A redemption of sorts makes its way into the final chapter of the Red Riding trilogy. The films wrap up in resolute fashion, and while I'm a tad underwhelmed at how the stories resolve, I'm still convinced this is a trilogy I want to revisit. In fact, I'd like to have it on my shelf. I'm certain a second viewing is in order. The trilogy screams to be seen more than once.

Most of the things we've not understood are given an answer in 1983, but the answer feels like Agent Dale Cooper turning into Bob at the end of Twin Peaks. With characters like the "wolf," the "owl," the "badger" -- and constant murmurs about a murder location that's "under the carpets" -- there's just enough of a Lynchian edge to send the neurons in your brain scrambling.

The more I think about it, the Twin Peaks comparison is decent. Originally a TV show about the murder of Laura Palmer, a high school senior, with FBI investigations and small town eccentricities, the end of the second season (and the series) left us with Cooper staring in the mirror, the killer staring back. It was a haunting image, never clearly resolved, a decent introduction to the main investigator in 1983.

The finale is the most emotionally invested of the three. The investigator cop, Maurice Jobson, who we've seen mostly as a supporting character, steps into the light in a leading role. He wrestles with the corruption he's witnessed, things he's evaded or taken part in, the killer that's running free due to the force's cover-up. To face these things and make it right he'd have to confront the entire institution. He wants out, but there doesn't seem to be a good out for him. The force has actually enabled a serial killer (or two) by thwarting past investigations for friends that they protect. Jobson's unseen role in 1974 is brought to the surface here -- we watch as he tries to reboot from his part in all the wrong. He won't find absolution, but maybe he can put a stop to the insanity once and for all. It would still be a sort of redemption for him, but for any character in Red Ridintg, absolution is far away.

And of course, Jobson's story is only one of several stories that intertwine and weave together a tapestry of characters who have all been profoundly affected by the murders and cover-ups. The strength of Red Riding as a whole is that it isn't one neat story, but a bunch of messy ones webbed together.

A climactic, over the top, slow motion scene toward the end will leave some stunned, and others pondering movie manipulation. I left the scene somewhere in the middle, but can't wait to see it again.

While I picked on 1974 for its inferior 16mm and applauded 1980 for its standard 35mm, having seen the final film in DV format is rather telling. When digital was first pushed in dogme films years ago, I loved it. It revolutionized indie filmmaking long before Youtube was conceived. Over the years it has gradually worn down with people like Michael Mann, unable to locate its strengths. I am no fan of the digital setting in 1983, especially the way reflected light brings these horizontal, ugly lines across the screen, which is all too noticeable and happens throughout the film. However, watching the three together as a whole rather redeems the use of the finale's digital. It is sleek, compared to the retro use of old-school devices in 1974. Understood this way, time seems to travel from retro to modern as the years of the series progress. While I'm not a fan of the way the digital was used here, I can understand it in context with the rest of the films, and even appreciate the artistic attempts at creativity.

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