by Jef Burnham
Now on mobile phones through Babelgum and DVD from Liberation Entertainment; and in theaters for one night only by satellite across the UK on September 24, 2009.
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Writer/director Sally Potter’s (Yes, Orlando, The Man Who Cried) latest film, Rage, is getting a lot of attention for the its revolutionary release strategy, primarily because it premieres in part on mobile devices before any other media. The film, which is divided into 7 sections spanning a week for the characters, is being released one section a day as mobile downloads as of September 21. The 22nd sees the film’s DVD release. And the film will be streamed via satellite across the UK for one night on September 24th. It sounds like a gimmick to generate buzz, but the film has much more to offer than its marketing strategy. Rage is thoroughly captivating and intense, and as funny as it is scary.
Generally, I am 100% opposed to the idea of cinema on mobile devices, but the premise of Rage sort of demands that it be available as such. The film follows a tragic week at a New York fashion show as depicted through talking-head interviews conducted by a fictional schoolboy named Michelangelo, who records the interviews on his mobile phone. Michelangelo’s interviews become popular viral videos, exactly the sort of thing one would watch on their mobile device.
The film is far more substantial than your average YouTube video, though. The film manages to be formally simple as a series of mini-monologues, yet thematically complex as it delves into the exploitation of lives for benefit of conglomerations, the horrors of said conglomerations controlling the multiple media platforms, and the further dangers of media in the hands of individual citizens.
The majority of media in the world is controlled by a small handful of conglomerations, their assets including radio, newspapers, television, movie studios, magazines, etc. etc. etc. Whereas we are apt to assert that monopolization is the reason media is so harmful to society, Potter argues that perhaps it has nothing to do with the monopolization of media. Perhaps the fault lies with media itself—that even under public control, media would still produce a singularly-minded mass market, which is just another way of saying “mob.”
Interestingly, Potter puts cinematic technique aside with her nearly stationary camera and single-color backgrounds, entrusting her 14 performers to carry the film in its entirety. This, I would argue, places the performers as much in the role of filmmaker as Potter herself. Her onscreen extensions are Jude Law, Steve Buscemi, Judi Dench, John Leguizamo, Dianne Wiest, Eddie Izzard, Riz Ahmed, Bob Balaban, Lily Cole, Patrick J. Adams, David Oyelowo, Adriana Barraza, Simon Abkarian, and Jakob Cedergren. Jude Law, in particular, is spectacular as Minx, the physical embodiment of the manufactured phoniness and sexual exploitation of the fashion world.
The special features on the DVD from Liberation Entertainment include 21 unused scenes; an interview with Sally Potter conducted the day after shooting on the film wrapped; and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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