Once or twice a year, if we are lucky, a movie comes out of seemingly nowhere and grabs ahold of us, with thoughts and ideas that stick in our heads long after the credits have rolled out and the lights in the auditorium has illuminated again. Right now, that film is Adam Rifkin’s hauntingly brilliant “Look.”
Editor’s note: “Look” will show tonight at the AFI Fest at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood at 9:30 PM, before opening in theatres this December.
Chances are you are familiar with Mr. Rifkin’s work, if not his name. His work as a writer for Hollywood and as a writer/director of more personal independent fare has been as disparate as “Mouse Hunt” and “Night at the Golden Eagle.” If a thread could connect his work, it would be the eccentricity of his characters and the situations they find themselves in. “Look” is as unconventional as his other films, yet stands heads and shoulders above the others.
“Look” has no main character or protagonist. It doesn’t follow the three-act screenplay structure that has become the standard for modern moviemaking. There isn’t a traditional score, and there really isn’t even a character to root for. The film dares to show the ugly shallowness which all too often passes as human interaction today. Even the way it is made is unorthodox. “Look” follows the lives of a group of people throughout Los Angeles, seen through the unblinking eyes of hundreds of surveillance cameras scattered throughout the city.
Did you know there are more than thirty million of these video cameras currently in operation in the United Statesr That the average American will be captured by two hundred of these camera on any given dayr Buying your groceries, shopping at the mall, filling up your gas tank, driving through the intersection, getting your daily latte, even at the movie theatre, the cameras are watching you. Think you’ve alone when you’re going to the bathroom or changing at the clothing storer Sure, there are laws that are supposed to guard our privacy in certain places, but since when did any business owner follow every law of the land to the letterr
Despite “Look” being the closest thing to taking the Orwellian nightmare of “1984” to its logical conclusion, and being one of the few big screen endeavors to actively capture society’s natural obsession with voyeurism, its brilliance comes from Mr. Rifkin’s lack of instant judgment against any of the characters. Very few films and filmmakers today allow their stories to be told ambiguously, to make their viewers decide for themselves about what might be any individual character’s motivation, only to challenge those assessments throughout the film.
“Look” is shocking and engaging, and could easily become one of those films like “The Crying Game” which you’ll see once for yourself, and then you’ll take your friends to so you can see their reaction. It’s one of those films that you’ll want to make sure everyone you know sees, but will have a hard time telling them what it’s about, because you don’t want to spoil it for them. You’ll notice I’ve said almost nothing about the film itself, because that’s how I saw the film, knowing nothing about it outside of the basic premise, and that’s how I would want everyone else to see it. And it won’t be an easy sell. You can’t say “It’s the new Adam Rifkin film” because Mr. Rifkin does not have the same name cache with people as Steven Spielberg or George Lucas. You can’t say “It features Giuseppe Andrews and Rhys Corio,” even though many may know Mr. Andrews from “Cabin Fever” and Mr. Corio from “Entourage.”
In the end, “Look” one of those films whose details are better left undiscussed, that will rely on people trusting those who recommend it. In this case, the more you know, the less your experience with it will be. Just know that it is an expertly crafted work benefitting from a magic convergence of great writing, masterful directing and numerous nuanced performances. I can’t say you will love the film, but I can say you will remember it.
“Look” is one of the best films of 2007.
You can also read my exclusive interview with Adam Rifkin.Rating: A+