TIFF 2012: Tower Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Tower (2012)

Starring Derek Bogart and Nicole Fairbairn

Directed by Kazik Radwanski

In the middle of Kazik Radwanski’s Tower, a dentist asks our protagonist, a man named Derek (Bogart) how old he is. He looks like what would happen if a skinnier Tom Cruise started balding but kept his other hair growing. God, just shave it all off and you’ll look better. Derek is thirty-four. Yet he hasn’t had his wisdom teeth out, he procrastinates going to the doctor to treat the infected wound in between his eyes, listens to dance hall music instead of finishing his animated movie, still lives with his parents, and hasn’t figured out his life yet.

To be honest, my first reaction towards watching the film was frustration, wondering why Derek isn’t doing anything ‘substantial’ enough for an audience like us to care. But then I remembered that like Tower, movies without structure actually reflect real life. Like John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence its looped way of plotting and editing, where it feels like the same encounters and arguments for certain chunks of both movies. Surprisingly enough, repetition doesn’t yield the same result nor emotions, as we feel anger and empathy or in Tower’s case, a sense of discovery within the mundane.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Derek is a stripped down version of the valorized thirty-something man-child archetype that we’ve seen in comedies for the past decade. But Radwanski and Bogart choose a different approach to this character study. There are less social encounters where he can either charm his way to other people’s hearts or fuck it up yet make us root for him, although both scenarios are well-represented here. What we see instead is him in his solitary moments even within the crowds, taking 98% of the camera time. And despite of our opinion towards his character, Bogart takes on this Herculean task with Falconetti’s zen like strength, not faltering in this display of stoic naturalism. This isn’t acting but behaving or being, without resorting to any acting tics like movie stars woefully do.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Tower portrays him while giving us a different sensory experience, hearing the sounds of the city while only seeing familiar locations through hints or blurry lights. Again Derek is close to us within an aesthetic and editing principles – no fade outs until it ends! – that would be considered dreamlike or impressionistic if his face wasn’t so…into our face. We see him fight the little battles, in some ways oblivious to life the same way that life is a mystery to many of us.

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