Rage

| September 22, 2009

Rage is the new film by Sally Potter (Orlando; The Man Who Cried). This ambitious film claims to have invented a new genre of filmmaking: Naked Cinema. Whatever its being labeled, Rage certainly is like no other film that is out there right now. The concept of the film involves a young schoolboy, Michelangelo, filming interviews on his cell phone with the various personalities he encounters over the course of a week at a New York City fashion house. The minimalist set design rarely involves anything more than a solid colored background and a stool.
I was skeptical of the film’s ability to hold my attention. Yes, there is a plot, but we as an audience do not have the benefit of witnessing events. Rather, we are told everything second hand. This creates an unusual amount of dependence upon the individual performances of each actor. We as an audience glean nothing without the specificity of their emotional connection to these events.
Initially, each individual interviewee explains their job, how they feel about it and then explains their impression of the fashion industry. There are musings on everything from beauty, art, mortality, immigration, capitalism, and fulfillment, to name a few.
Off screen, there is a major accident during the runway portion of the fashion show and the next set of interviews deals with reactions to an unlikely and particularly gruesome tragedy. Our only indication of the surrounding chaos is limited to audible crowd panic and the affect it has on each interviewee.
There is a diverse cross section of the fashion society represented in the film. These include: a photographer (Steve Buscemi), a designer (Simon Abkarian), the models (Lily Cole and Jude Law, in jaw dropping drag), a cynical fashion critic (Judi Dench), a seamstress (Adriana Barraza), a financier (Eddie Izzard), his bodyguard (Jon Leguizamo), and the meek and lovable pizza delivery guy (Riz Ahmed). As each character begins to confide in Michelangelo, we hear secrets and confessions that enable us to piece together the reality of those events taking place off screen.
We neither hear nor see the schoolboy, yet each of the actors interact with him during the course of their interviews. At first, most of the film’s characters are nurturing of Michelangelo’s curiosity. However, after he begins to post the daily set of interviews to an online blog, many become hostile, even threatening. Interestingly, the film itself is being distributed using a similar viral video concept: each day for a week consumers can download a new “episode” of the film to their cell phones and follow the events in supposed “real time”.
Without the strength of the truly ensemble cast, Rage would have seemed like a self indulgent fictional think piece. Instead, the film works because of each actor’s total dedication to their character. At some point in the first half hour, I no longer felt the urge to see what was happening off screen. The way these events disoriented the professed beliefs of each character and left them to desperately reevaluate the course of their lives was far more engaging.
While Rage is not for everyone, see it because the acting is sublime. See it because it reflects the warped attitudes and misguided dreams that our society instructs us to value. See it because a dress is not just a dress…it is a statement.
DVD Special Features include 21 Unused Scenes, an Interview with Sally Potter, and a Theatrical Trailer.

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