Pay Attention or You'll Miss It
Like the rumors of things hidden in single frames of The Little Mermaid, you really have to look closely to see what's really there in Full Frontal. The movie does actually pay off on its title, sort of, but the shot puts the emphesis elsewhere, which, in a lot of ways, seems to be what the movie is saying. Our attentions fall upon those things that interest us.
Full Frontal is an experimental piece that doesn't give a lot of explanation - we, as an audience, have to figure it out. In that sense, the movie ought not be judged so much on how well we understand it, or even the worthiness of the subject matter, but rather how it gets its ideas across.
I was aware coming into the film that it was shot on a Canon XL1S mini-DV camera, and from the first shots, I was absolutely amazed. I have a nearly identical camera, and while I think it's good, I had to know what tricks were used to get that detail on that big a screen.
And then the quality of the film changed. I had been fooled. There are also segments of the movie shot on 35mm film. This is part of the experiment. As we have a movie being shot within the movie, when we see that internal movie we are shown the scenes as they would have actually been shot on film. It's a clever device, a little reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project, but obviously a more stylistic choice than those filmmakers had made.
We are treated to several storylines, whose connections are not immediately spelled out for us, but at least we know they are happening in LA. We are shown title cards that give us certain information, about who we are seeing on screen and how (or whether) they were invited... somewhere. The film doesn't tell us that - we just have to wait for it to make sense. As it turns out, there's a birthday party for an important studio type, and all sorts of people are going to be there. I don't think the title cards were a very effective plot device. While it leaves us wondering, and gives us information that needs to be connected, there doesn't seem to be anything additional we get once we make the connection. It's a letdown, in fact, though there might not be any actual moment we would feel that, because the connection is so slow to be made, we don't realize it so much as realize we know it already.
The stories themselves are not so bad on an individual basis, and there is a certain expressiveness to them that is nice to see. While I enjoyed watching them on their own, there seemed to be a slight Hollywood veneer in places, and as a whole, felt somewhat disjointed. Is there a purpose to making it that way? I don't see it, and I don't really feel like there was intention for such. I think we are looking at variation on a theme, in which case we should feel the differences but also similarities between the stories.
There is a wide range of well known actors and otherwise (including a couple of the lesser-knowns from SubUrbia), and I don't know that I'd single out any of them for their performances, but in general they played well to the laid-back style of the film.
We come to the end of the film with a shot that clearly conveys meaning, one which comments upon the whole of what we have watched. Yet it falls flat, leaving me wondering if I've missed something. Sometimes a cigar is, in fact, a cigar, but I'm determined that there was something more there. But if I can't see it, does that implicate me as a filmgoer, or the film for not communicating clearly? It might just be both, but for me I am left simply holding a mixed bag for my review of Full Frontal. I enjoyed it, but felt it didn't deliver, or I couldn't receive, its full potential.
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