Category Archives: Capsules

CAPSULE: GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE (2010)

Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Joann Sfar

FEATURING: Eric Elmosnino, Lucy Gordon, Laetitia Casta, Anna Mouglalis,

PLOT: Recounts the life of French singer Serge Gainsbourg, from his formative days as a

Still from Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2010)

young Jewish boy in occupied France through his relationships with Juliette Gréco, Brigitte Bardot, and Jane Birkin—and also his relationship with his spindly, scary puppet alter-ego.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: A brave biopic that’s true to Serge Gainsbourg’s rebel spirit, but in terms of weirdness, it only goes about halfway.

COMMENTS: Growing up as a precocious Jewish boy in Nazi occupied France, young Lucien Ginsburg (later to reinvent himself as Serge Gainsbourg) amuses himself by drawing a flipbook fable.  A pianist (like the boy’s father) is constantly rejected because of his “ugly mug.”  The despised musician perversely embraces his detractors’ insults and wills his head to swell larger and larger until it finally bursts and the suavely deformed “Professor Flipus” emerges.  The Flipus character (also referred to as “my mug”) shows up later in life as Gainsbourg’s artistic daemon, a spirit materialized as a puppet with glowing eyes and grotesque, oversized features (the sharp-nosed homunculus looks like a debonair version of the Brainiac).  Flipus’ parents would seem to be Gainsbourg’s Jewish identity—his puppet ancestor is a six-legged, moon-faced anti-Semitic propaganda poster who comes down off a wall to dance with Lucien in the alleyways of Paris—and his insecurity about his own “ugly mug.”  Flipus spurs the budding composer to switch from painting to songwriting by “accidentally” burning up Lucien’s canvases, prods him to seduce various glamorous actresses, and grows jealous and vengeful at the appearance of a healthier muse.  Surreal moments are scattered randomly throughout the movie (an inexplicable cat butler, four costumed men who trade breakfast for a song, and visual puns referencing Serge’s albums “Melody Nelson” and ” Tête de Chou”), but it’s Flipus who provides most of Gainsbourg‘s underlying weird texture, and lifts the proceedings above the ordinary.  As an introduction for those uninitiated in Gainsbourg’s discography and biography, the movie isn’t wholly successful.  If you don’t already know who Boris Vian, Django Reinhardt and France Gall are, you may become confused when they suddenly show up or are referenced.  Gainsbourg’s scandalous music, which begins as witty, ribald chanson and develops through the 1960s into lounge-rock psychedelia, is sampled in fast-moving snippets that make it hard to see the lines of development.  The movie also suffers from the usual drawback of biographical movies: real life produces great characters, but not necessarily great stories (which is why fiction supplanted biography, after all).  Life stories tend to turn into a series of vignettes; fortunately for us, Gainsbourg’s vignettes involve him bedding Juliette Gréco, Brigitte Bardot, and Jane Birkin.  A trio of actresses—Anna Mouglalis, Laetitia Casta, and Lucy Gordon—simmer as Gainsbourg’s succession of sexy muses.  Gordon’s role is most important, but slinky Casta leaves the biggest impression as a spot-on Bardot, first seen walking a dog in thigh-high black leather boots and a leopardskin miniskirt, and later memorably dancing with a sheer bedsheet tantalizingly wrapped around her voluptuous frame.  Constantly shrouded in his own personal nicotine cloud (since the MPAA has started handing out “R” ratings for tobacco use, the chain-smoking Gainsbourg should probably earn a XXX rating), Eric Elmosnino holds his own against his eye-candy co-stars, conveying awkwardness and suavity at the same time.  Unfortunately, historical accuracy requires him to metamorphose from a charming rake into a drunken lout, so our sympathies for the protagonist sag at the end: not the take-home note you really want in a “heroic” portrait.  Still, given the limitations imposed by real life, Gainsbourg is as a successfully hallucinatory hagiography that will please fans, and make newcomers at least curious to sample Serge’s suave discography.

Director Joann Sfar adapted this, his first film, from his own graphic novel.  To his dismay, producers insisted that early versions of the trailer contain no shots of Professor Flipus (though variations have been released since that do show the creation, without hinting at his prominence).  One source reports that Serge’s daughter, weird favorite Charlotte Gainsbourg, was at one time considered for the role of her father.  On a sad note, model/actress Lucy Gordon, who played a convincing Jane Birkin, committed suicide in 2009 before the film’s release.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“There’s a bold splash of the surreal in this inspired portrait of a man whose life really is too big for one film.”–Annette Basile, Film Ink (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: THE ARBOR (2010)

DIRECTED BY: Clio Barnard

FEATURING: Manjinder Virk, Christine Bottomley, Natalie Gavin

PLOT:  A quasi-documentary about the short life of Yorkshire playwright Andrea Dunbar, the

Still from The Arbor (2010)

impoverished housing estate she called home, and the troubled family she left behind, told with actors lip-synching to tape recordings of real-life individuals.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The Arbor is built around an unusual, film-length gimmick.  The movie itself, however, is a straightforward telling of Dunbar’s life. The story is surprising, but all too believable in its depiction of circumstances impossible to overcome.

COMMENTS: Andrea Dunbar was 15 when she began writing a play about her life in a working-class slum. The play, called The Arbor, was eventually discovered and produced by the prestigious Royal Court Theater.  Her next play, Rita, Sue and Bob Too! was successful enough to be made into a film, and it seemed she had the makings of a great theatrical career.  But Dunbar was something of a screw-up.  Probably alcoholic, she was careless with relationships and had three children by three different fathers.  Ultimately, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage while out drinking in her favorite pub at the age of 29.

This biography would be interesting enough, but The Arbor has a trick up its sleeve: director Barnard recorded interviews with Andrea Dunbar’s family and friends, and then cast actors to lip-synch those interviews, literally mouthing every word, stutter, and vocal tic.  It sounds like a stunt, but this technique gives Barnard a level of freedom unprecedented in documentary filmmaking.  Rather than a series of talking heads narrating unseen events, Barnard is able to place her actors in tableaux that reflect the accounts provided by the authentic voices.  In one early scene, recalling a fire set by one of Dunbar’s daughters, two adult actors stand side-by-side in the burning room, delivering contradictory recollections of the people they portray in a way the two real women never could.

It’s a daring convention, and sometimes a distracting one. A title card announces the technique at the start, and it’s almost impossible to forget as you watch each actor’s lips and try to get your head around the idea that they are channeling someone else’s voice.  Barnard seems to welcome the disorientation.  Consider that one of the actors (George Costigan, playing one of Dunbar’s occasional boyfriends) was also one of the stars of the movie of Rita, Sue and Bob Too!  Blurring reality seems to be the goal.  Add to that the fact that scenes are filmed in actual locations, including the pub where Dunbar died, and the line between reality and fiction is almost completely obscured.

Perhaps an even more clever touch is the staging of scenes from the play The Arbor on the streets of the Buttershaw Estate where the playwright grew up.  Even more than the archival footage of Dunbar from over 25 years ago, her play brings the world of late 70s working-class England to life, and the contrast with today reveals the community to be a gravity well of misery from which no one seems able to escape.  Plus, it’s immediately clear how thinly-disguised Dunbar’s characters are.  She, too, kept reality at a close remove.

The word “harrowing” is almost cliché in stories like this, but it’s hard to think of a better one as we learn the awful fate of Dubar’s daughter Lorraine.  An alien in her own family (half-Pakistani, she is scorned by the community, and possibly even by her own mother), Lorraine has resentment to spare.  However, it becomes clear that she has made even worse life choices than her mother, culminating in an unspeakable personal tragedy.  Here is where the gimmick works best, as the deadened voice of the real Lorraine Dunbar mixes with the sad eyes of actress Manjinder Virk to create the perfect blend of lament and hopelessness.

Ultimately, The Arbor is a bold attempt to do something new with the documentary format, to find a visually compelling way to tell a true story.  The lens we view the story through is an odd one, but the film’s real power is an all-too-familiar story of people in desperate circumstances.  Dunbar got a little closer to making her way out, but the outcome is heartbreakingly familiar.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The disconcerting effect of the lip-syncing becomes exacerbated as Barnard surrealistically positions her subjects within their own descriptions of the past…The resulting eeriness combines identification with the characters and a Brechtian removal from them, establishing the mystery of the director’s intent.”–Eric Kohn, INDIEWire (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: GIORGIO MORODER PRESENTS METROPOLIS (1927/1984)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Fritz Lang/(version prepared by Giorgio Moroder)

FEATURING: Gustav Fröhlich, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge

PLOT: Freder, son of the man who rules Metropolis, discovers the plight of the subterranean

Still from Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis

workers who make the city run when he falls in love with a proletarian female preacher; his new lover is replaced by a robotic imposter who intends to lead the workers to ruin.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a powerful candidate for the List, but Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis isn’t.  Kino’s 2010 “Complete Metropolis” restoration is now the definitive version of the film; Moroder’s re-imagining, with its synth-pop soundtrack and vocal intrusions by 1980s rock acts like Loverboy, Bonnie Tyler and Pat Benetar, is a curiosity.

COMMENTS:  Set in a massive, mostly underground city that’s equal parts Futurist dreamscape and Babylonian pleasure garden, Metropolis is an unqualified, iconic Expressionist masterpiece, and if you want to turn down the sound and watch it while listening to Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga mp3s, that’s not going to destroy its visual splendor.  Whatever questionable choices “Flashdance… What a Feeling!” composer Giorgio Moroder may have made with the proto-techno soundtrack that he added to this restoration (more on that score later), this Metropolis looks like it’s been struck from a pristine print, and it’s as feverishly hallucinatory as any other version.  The decision to tint most of the scenes works wonderfully (and may even have reflected Lang’s original wishes; tinting was not at all uncommon in 1927).  The colorization is tasteful and intelligent, with scenes on the surface bathed in radiant sepia, while the underground sequences utilize shadowy shades of steel blue and grey.  This process retains the film’s monochromatic scale, simply shifting the palette towards the blue or the amber spectrum.  Moroder added additional color effects for a few scenes; some of the equipment in mad scientist Rotwang’s laboratory glows with electricity, and when he transforms his robot into the image of Maria, the automaton’s eyes shine with an inhuman, metallic blue glint.  Because some segments of Metropolis were lost, Moroder also Continue reading CAPSULE: GIORGIO MORODER PRESENTS METROPOLIS (1927/1984)

CAPSULE: APHRODISIAC! THE SEXUAL SECRET OF MARIJUANA (1971)

DIRECTED BY: Dennis Van Zak

FEATURING: John Holmes, Billy Curtis, and anonymous hippies

PLOT: A pro-pot documentary touting the aphrodisiacal properties of the titular herb, with brief

Still from Aphrodisiac!: The Sexual Secret of Marijuana (1971)

hardcore sex scenes to illustrate its key thesis.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  It’s an absurd, exploitative historical oddity that’s worth noting, but it’s not nearly odd/hilarious enough to crack the List of the Best Weird Movies ever made.

COMMENTS: Aphrodisiac! The Sexual Secret of Marijuana is an example of a type of film of enormous importance in the history of film censorship.  (Yeah, that’s why we wanted to check it out…)  In the years before Deep Throat (1972) beat the censors in court, would-be pornographers were trying to stay on the good side of the Roth obscenity test, which concluded that a work could discuss and arguably depict sex if it was not “utterly without socially redeeming importance” and so long as “the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole” did not “appeal to the prurient interest.”  A few sleaze sellers pounced on the documentary format as a promising way to provide “socially redeeming importance” while avoiding appealing “to the prurient interest” (at least, “as a whole”).  They released daring films with titles like Man & Wife: An Educational Film for Married Adults (1969), Pornography in Denmark (1970), and Sexual Liberty Now (1971) that included some hardcore sex scenes amidst the “serious” (i.e., seriously boring) discussion of social issues.  Aphrodisiac! falls into this brief tradition, but it’s extra-shameless in its willingness to meld sexploitation with drugsploitation while wrapping the whole thing in a semi-sincere wrapper of social relevance.  Aphrodisiac! bounces back and forth between documentary nuggets, obviously fake “man in the street” interviews, and graphic illustrations of cannabis’ connubial powers.  As a documentary the film is far from incisive, but really not as shoddy and misleading as you might have expected: prohibitionist Harry J. Anslinger’s central role in influencing public opinion against the “killer drug” is highlighted, as is New York City mayor Fiorella La Guardia’s much-ignored 1939 study concluding that marijuana posed little threat to public health.  We also learn (correctly) that George Washington grew Continue reading CAPSULE: APHRODISIAC! THE SEXUAL SECRET OF MARIJUANA (1971)

CAPSULE: MATRIMONY [XIN ZHONG YOU GUI] (2007)

AKA The Matrimony

DIRECTED BY: Hua-Tao Teng

FEATURING: Rene Liu, Fan Bingbing,

PLOT:  The ghost of a woman who died moments before her lover proposed to her contacts his new bride with an offer to help her thaw the heart of the groom who still pines for his lost love.

Still from Matrimony (2007)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Despite its (needlessly) weird ending, Matrimony is a standard-issue ghost story for the majority of its running time.

COMMENTS: If you have a yen for an atmospheric, timeless romantic ghost story that delivers a few mild shivers, then you may want to try out Matrimony—but be prepared for a bumpy road.  Set in Shanghai in what we might guess is the 1930s or 1940s, the story begins when hero Junchu sees his radio hostess lover Manli run down by a car before his eyes just moments before he could propose to her.  Understandably upset by the lack of closure to the relationship, he becomes a recluse, but agrees to an arranged marriage with subservient young Sansan under pressure from his sick mother.  Sansan loves Junchu but he spurns her, lost in his memories of Manli and his tortured thoughts of the life they might have shared.  After half an hour of setup accompanied by bumps in the night, forbidden basements and half-glimpsed apparitions, Manli’s spirit appears to Sansan and offers her a bargain that may help heal Junchu’s broken heart.  It’s an intriguing proposal, but unfortunately an exploration of the emotional entanglements that might have this arisen from complicated menage a trois between two living people and one dead one is ignored in favor of a predictable horror scenario.  Matrimony is a movie that keeps promising to turn into a very good one, but never quite fulfills its vows.  Although sometimes over-dramatic and heavy on the blue filter, the cinematography (by Wong Kar Wai collaborator Ping Bin Lee) is generally gorgeous—and sometimes magical, as in a flashback in a snowy provincial alley lit by paper lanterns and New Year’s fireworks, or the underwater ritual where Sansan breathes her living spirit into the ghost bride in a bathtub.  But the movie’s visual triumphs alternate with some painfully clumsy effects, most notably a supposedly shocking and tragic accident that’s one of the most unintentionally funny vehicular homicides ever filmed.  Since this unfortunate incident occurs at the very beginning of the story, it takes the movie a while to shake the aura of amateurism.  To its credit Matrimony does overcome this misstep and draw you back in to the story with its strong characters, but it ends on a weak decrescendo with a tired “the monster must be destroyed” climax followed by a mystifying “was it all a dream?” coda.  Although the ending is by far the weirdest card Matrimony plays, there are a couple of problems with it.  First, it comes out of left field—there’s nothing in the rest of the film to suggest we’re watching a mindbender.  More importantly, the twist adds nothing to the story dramatically, thematically or emotionally.  It simply undoes what we thought we knew about the principals, rather than expanding on their characters or forcing us to see events in a new light.  To give you an idea of the typical viewer’s response to this needlessly ambiguous closing, as of this writing there are currently two threads on the movie’s dedicated message board on IMDB, one titled “ending?” and the other “what kind of ending was that?”  It’s unfortunate that the movie, which does a lot right in the middle, puts its weakest moments at the very beginning and the very end, where they’re most likely to be remembered.  For better or worse, Matrimony is a sometimes rewarding, frequently frustrating experience.

Matrimony is a rare example of a horror film from mainland China; despite the genre’s popularity in the rest of east Asia and in the formerly independent province of Hong Kong, the Chinese government apparently considers scare flicks a bad investment and/or a bad influence.  Though released under Palisades Tartan’s “Asia Extreme” label with a misleadingly gruesome cover image of a wedding band slipped onto a severed hand, Matrimony is far from extreme.  It’s closer to an art film than a typical J-horror or K-horror.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…the film does toss us a ringer at the end, an ambiguous but strangely satisfying little coda that suggests Teng might have been more interested in playing a metaphysical card than telling a love story or a ghost story all along.”–Tom Becker, DVD Verdict (DVD)

CAPSULE: CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (2010)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: (narration)

PLOT: Granted unprecedented access, Werner Herzog takes his camera crew into the Chauvet

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

caves of Southern France to capture images of the oldest artwork ever discovered—Cro-Magnon paintings that date back approximately 30,000 years.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  It’s essentially a very sober and serious documentary on an important subject, with the presence (and odd musings) of ultra-eccentric director Werner Herzog supplying the only weird connection.

COMMENTS:  There are two things to keep in mind about Cave of Forgotten Dreams.  One is that those of us who missed it in its theatrical run will probably never get the opportunity to experience the film as it was intended to be seen.  Cave was originally shot in 3D, and for maybe the first time in film history, there was actually a reason to access that third dimension.  The Chauvet paintings were drawn on rocky walls, and the artists incorporated the bulges and ripples into their sketches (Herzog comments on how, in flickering torchlight, the horses and lions drawn on the craggy walls might appear to move—comparing the cave itself to a sort of proto-cinema).  The second thing to keep in mind is that this is an Important work; which is not to say that it’s not also Interesting, just that Herzog takes his responsibility to document these previously unseen caverns very seriously, and if it comes down to a choice between being Interesting or Important, he errs towards the latter.  The Chauvet caves, which were hidden by a rockslide and preserved away from prying eyes for millennia before being accidentally discovered by spelunkers in 1994, are considered of such scientific and historical importance that only a small number of the world’s top scientists had previously been granted access. The crew was forced to film under restrictive conditions: they were only allowed access for a few hours each day, were confined to a two foot metal walkway so as not to disturb any of the primeval footprints or animal skulls littering the cavern floors, and could only use handheld cameras and low-heat lighting elements that they could carry with them.  Since there are only a few painted panels of interest to amateurs, Herzog fills up the running time with interviews with scientists who gave us background on the caves and on Paleolithic man.  While he does pick a few colorful characters to interrogate—most notably a guy who dresses in deerskin and serenades us with a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” piped on a vulture-bone flute—these scarce quirky digressions aren’t as gonzo as some reports might have you believe.  The focus remains on the artwork.  Herzog passionately believes that when we look at these mysterious scrawlings of battling rhinos and half-buffalo women we are peeking at the first stirrings of the human soul, though through a cloudy window.  In the quiet finale the camera lingers over the detailed panels depicting cave lions and horses, remarkably rendered figures etched one on top of the other to suggest movement, while Ernst Reijseger’s mystical score of cellos, flutes and a droning choir plays an imaginary primordial liturgy.  It’s an intense tribute, and even a little trippy.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a Herzog film without at least one totally incomprehensible moment.  This time it occurs in a head-scratching epilogue.  After finishing his tour of the cave, Herzog takes a trip to a nearby experimental biosphere where a tropical climate has been created using heated water from a nearby nuclear reactor.  There, he films some albino alligators and proclaims them our doppelgängers, wondering how they would react to the caves.  It’s an obscure personal metaphor that provokes an almost universal response: “huh”?  But perhaps it’s the best way to end the documentary: we can’t completely understand what Cave‘s paintings meant to artists separated from us by 30,000 years of evolution any more than we can completely understand the peculiar vision of Werner Herzog.

Herzog made two documentaries screened in the U.S. this year, neither of which have been shortlisted for Academy Awards.  Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which certainly deserved a nomination, was ruled ineligible because it received a limited screening in 2010.  His other film, Into the Abyss, concerned interviews with three unrepentant Texas death row inmates, did not make the shortlist of fifteen features despite excellent reviews.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a journey to prehistory that’s simultaneously wondrous and tedious, profound and completely nuts — which is to say, quintessential Herzog.”–Jeanette Catsoulis, National Public Radio (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: MELANCHOLIA (2011)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Charlotte Gainsbourg, , Alexander Skarsgård, ,

PLOT: A young woman grapples with serious depression on her wedding day, causing rifts i nher already-tempestuous family relationships. Meanwhile, a planet known as Melancholia is making its way towards Earth.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Von Trier’s rumination on the end of the world is for the most part surprisingly understated, incorporating surrealistic imagery here and there but primarily relegating itself to a realistic study of a family in crisis with a science-fiction background.

COMMENTS: Opening with breathtaking slow-motion shots of a dreamlike apocalypse set to a bombastic Wagner score, Melancholia begins with the promise of something literally earth-shattering. Its ambition and scope seem far-reaching and all-encompassing, much like Malick’s confused 2011 offering The Tree of Life. Shifting to close-quarters shaky cam as the focus moves to new bride Justine’s wedding party, Melancholia becomes an investigation of her debilitating depression and how most of her wealthy, bitter family is unsympathetic. The second half keeps the setting of an isolated mansion inn, but puts the spotlight on sister Claire, whose extreme anxiety is increased by the foreboding presence of the incoming planet.

As the promise of a visually and thematically grandiose event lingers over the film’s proceedings, von Trier endeavors to first fully establish his characters and their relationships. We spend a lot of time with these people, seeing their connections and lack thereof, slowly understanding their underlying flaws and neuroses. The looming threat of complete world destruction is barely acknowledged during the first half as the script is absorbed in Justine’s efforts to hide her disease and Claire’s concern for keeping up appearances. It’s meandering and slow-moving, but the strong lead performances from Dunst and Gainsbourg—along with a charismatic supporting turn from Sutherland—are engaging enough to keep things interesting until the apocalypse strikes.

Because we spend so much time with these characters beforehand, their plight at the end is felt all the more acutely. Seeing how these women lived—raised in wealth but suffering internally (all very Salinger-esque)—is such an intimate experience that it’s hard to not feel involved personally. The planet Melancholia itself is truly an awesome sight, eerie and intimidating, seeming to affect the actors internally and causing a few mouths to open in the audience.  Of course, the ear-shattering Wagner orchestration helps build the intensity.

Weird movie fans will surely appreciate the gorgeous surrealistic imagery peppered throughout, but at its heart Melancholia is a serious examination of mental illness and family ties in the shadow of a cataclysmic event.

G. Smalley adds: Melancholia is an intensely metaphorical movie, but it is essentially a more conventional, dramatic reworking of the theme of clinical depression vonTrier explored in the weirder, more outrageous Antichrist.  The two movies contain common themes and a similar look (I was surprised to discover that they had different cinematographers), but they are so different in their approach that I’m not sure liking one will predict how you’ll react to the other.  In fact, I suspect that many of the people now singing the praises of Melancholia were the ones complaining the loudest at Antichrist and von Trier’s descent into “torture porn.”  Melancholia is strong throughout, but I found the opening the most astounding part.  It’s a six-minute super slow motion surrealistic montage that manages to enrapture while featuring characters and events about whom we know nothing yet.  It opens with a shot of a devastated-looking Kirsten Dunst with dead birds falling in the background, and includes what may be my favorite image of the year: Dunst trudging through a forest glade in her white wedding gown, dragging behind her a train of huge vines tied to her ankles and waist.  The slow motion photography is technically amazing; sometimes you believe you’re looking at a still photograph until you see a foot lift, and at other times it seems figures in the foreground and background are moving at different rates.  It’s thrilling (to me, at least) to see a director who once advocated stripping film down to its basics (the short-lived “Dogme 95” movement) now embracing the full operatic range of cinematic tools.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“In many ways this bizarre, nihilistic meditation is a dreary, redundant, pretentious bore… On the other hand, the magnificent, ethereal visuals/special effects are haunting, particularly the opening collage which compresses the entire story.”– Susan Granger, SSG Syndicate