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Rage | From Blighty With Love



2009 (UK) 98 min Drama

Sally Potter
  1. Riz Ahmed
  2. Jude Law
  3. Judi Dench
  4. Eddie Izzard

  5. Sales Agent
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    1. ragethemovie.com/
    2. IMDB Entry
    3. Trailer

    Have you seen it and what did you think? Please leave a comment


Defying the usual conventions of film, Rage is the new cinematic creation from writer-director Sally Potter, the visionary filmmaker of award-winning films such as Orlando. Using a radical narrative structure focused entirely on a series of individual performances to camera, Rage consists of a dynamic series of interviews, as if shot by a schoolboy on his mobile phone, as he goes behind the scenes at a New York fashion show during a week in which an ‘accident’ on the catwalk turns into a murder investigation. Is it a crime of passion or something more sinister?

A stellar cast of actors feature including: Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley, Alfie) as Minx a transvestite model; Judi Dench (M in the James Bond films, Mrs Brown) as a powerful fashion editor, and Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Pulp Fiction) as a war photographer turned paparazzi.

New York Press
The best thing about Rage, Sally Potter’s movie mystery, is its simplicity. Potter defies the digital era’s fascination with new technology by emphasizing its limitations (it will premiere on mobile phones beginning Sept. 21). Through straightforward, head-on, close-up video interviews of 14 people who witnessed an incident at a fashion runway show, Potter relays a variety of emotions, personal philosophies, class experiences. Her video technique doesn’t substitute for cinematic variety or photochemical richness. Instead, strict adherence to the basic things that digital media record (a face, place, moment) helps to appreciate the difference between video and film. Eschewing the lazy carelessness of so many misguided digital enthusiasts, Potter’s rigor becomes a refreshing reminder of true cinematic values.
Jude Law as Minx in RAGEPotter’s formal experiment is also shrewd. Rage’s narrative core is a murder mystery but, instead of investigating exactly what happened (the routine Who Did It? or How Was It Done?), Potter details the personal reactions of fashion industry people connected to the tragedy. It’s a deconstructed view of the fashion world’s designer, manufacturers, publicists, models, photographers and hangers-on—all caught in the allure of money, celebrity, power and simple modern furor. Through Potter’s pared-down approach, her actors’ faces convey contemporary experience. These headshots critically re-focus the basic format of fashion photography in order to penetrate what only seems obvious. Potter knowingly quotes John Berger’s seminal essay “Ways of Seeing.”
It’s also shrewd that Potter picks over a dozen camera-worthy performers; actors who know how to occupy the space before a lens. Steve Buscemi, Judi Dench, Eddie Izzard, John Leguizamo, David Oyelowo, Dianne Wiest, Jakob Cedergren, Simon Abkarian, Patrick J. Adams and Riz Ahmed give these fashion-world types defining eccentricities. The sense of a social mosaic—voicing individual ambitions, venting their own resentments—also suggests a deconstruction of Altman’s naturalistic, Olympian worldview. (The fashion/murder plot combines the cattiness and intrigue of Altman’s Ready To Wear and Gosford Park.)
Potter’s most fascinating characters are the most opposite: Jude Law’s Minx, a pansexual supermodel, and Adriana Barraza’s seamstress Anita de Los Angeles. Between star and minion, Potter explores the industry’s superficiality as something that workers both indulge and suffer. These are major characterizations for the extraordinary way Law reveals levels of seductiveness (his specialty) and Barraza breaks the surface of working-class humility. Caught in the midst of scandal, Barraza screams, “I don’t want to be famous. I want to be invisible!” Balancing Minx’s panicky narcissism, it’s an ironic plea against the harsh competitiveness that Potter exposes.
Rage examines what’s beneath the surface of professional composure and what lies behind the different facades of human representation—whether it’s deliberately coy models such as Law and Cole, Dench’s cynical journalist or Cedergren’s publicist Otto. Potter’s form—using coordinated blue-screen and off-camera sound (sirens, gunshots, screams, whirring camera, chanting protestors, runway music)—keeps viewers in analytical mode. Her most poignant gimmick—a silent montage of shocked faces following a tragedy—recalls what Carl Dreyer knew about the power of close-ups. Potter knows that casual use of this tool has become an aesthetic casualty of the digital video age.
The Independent
A film is a film is a film, you’d think. But it’s strange how context can make a difference. When Sally Potter’s Rage screened in competition in Berlin in February, it generally got the critical thumbs-down. Perhaps it wasn’t what people expected: with its prestige cast (Steve Buscemi, Judi Dench, Eddie Izzard, et al), we seemed to be in for a racy ensemble drama about the fashion industry.
But there was no ensemble to it – every performer acted alone – and no ritzy frocks, apart from those worn by Jude Law. We got a succession of monologues to camera, each actor framed in close-up against flat backgrounds in colours ranging from sober steel grey to screaming yellow. The effect, on the Berlinale Palast’s huge screen, was overpowering to say the least.
This week Rage reappears in a different, rather peculiar context: in a set of simultaneous premieres across the UK, plus a release on mobile phones. Having seen it on the big screen and on my laptop, I’d be curious to see how Eddie Izzard looks smirking at you from an iPhone. This is an intriguing release for a director who has never taken the conventional route. A fixture of British film’s experimental wing (such as it is) since the late 1970s, Potter has always been adventurous, and only sometimes as cerebral as her reputation suggests. Her Orlando (1992) proposed a cool but sumptuous imagining of Virginia Woolf, while her last film, Yes, was a political romance about the global condition – in iambic pentameter.
In Rage, Potter pares everything down to DIY basics. Backstage at a New York fashion show, assorted characters are filmed by a teenager named Michelangelo, who’s quizzing them for his web project. All his interviewees choose, however improbably, to confide in him – from overlord financier “Tiny” Diamonds (Izzard), through PRs and scheming interns, down to the underpaid seamstress (Adriana Barraza) and hapless pizza delivery man Vijay (Riz Ahmed).
At some point in the narrative – itself as skeletal as a superwaif – two models come a cropper and a police investigation begins. Meanwhile, a protesting crowd rumbles offscreen – a portent of apocalypse both for Diamonds’ fashion house and for Western consumerism.
As a serious critique of the fashion world, Potter’s script offers little insight or subtlety. The characters expound views that come across as either transparently, deludedly self-serving or as sweepingly sloganistic: Dench’s grandly sour critic declares, “Fashion’s not an art form – if it’s anything at all, it’s pornography.” Taken together, Potter’s discursive mosaic provokes no novel conclusions: so the fashion world, despite producing occasional marvels, is exploitative, hollow, damaging to women and full of creeps. Who knew? We learn much less here than in The Devil Wears Prada, or even Zoolander, and as for the conflation of fashion and apocalypse, there’s a decided after-whiff of Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama.
But cinema isn’t necessarily any more about text than fashion is. Where Rage impresses is as portraiture: not so much of its broadly cartooned social types, though some are vividly entertaining, as of the actors themselves, their faces and mannerisms. Simon Abkarian overdoes it joyously in piratical hat and piratical whiskers à la John Galliano, emoting operatically as designer Merlin (“I am an event!”). Bob Balaban is superbly passive-aggressive as a weasly PR man, and Judi Dench, set against intense fuchsia, is magnificently spiky, spitting contemptuous aperçus and lighting a spliff from a handy little pistol.
The novelty turn is Jude Law cross-dressing as supermodel Minx, sporting a series of preposterous wigs and an intermittent Russian accent (is Minx from Minsk?). All flirty grandeur (“Are you shy because I am celebrity, yes?”), it’s Law’s most theatrical screen performance yet, but it’s perfect here, both a larky send-up of his own beauty and a comment on the catwalk model as imaginary woman.
But the people most redolent of the flesh-and-blood humanity that fashion operates to obscure are Steve Buscemi and British model Lily Cole. Buscemi, as a burned-out war photographer reassigned to the combat zone of the catwalks, is virtually a memento mori with his scrawny chicken neck, freaked eyes popping from those insect features: he’s never been photographed so unnervingly. At the other end of the spectrum is Cole, as ingénue Lettuce Leaf: despite a variety of wigs, there’s no disguising the irreducible strangeness of that Martian-mermaid face ballooning across the screen in extreme close-up. And Cole proves she can act, to poignant effect.
You wouldn’t think that a film that essentially parades faces in close-up for 95 minutes could hold the attention, but I found Rage consistently more compelling than Abbas Kiarostami’s recent, somewhat reverent Shirin. There’s also the work that Potter and director of photography Steven Fierberg do with colour, with eyes digitally retouched to match the backgrounds: most bizarrely when Vijay, painted blue from head to foot, is shot against a pink that rhymes with his bloodshot eyes.
While this may not be entirely what Potter intended, Rage makes most sense if you approach it not as a film but as a piece of intensely stylised video art. I don’t mean to suggest that Rage is hollow but handsome – and yet if it were, what neater ironic comment on the glamour that it satirises? As drama and critique, Potter’s creation is not nearly mordant enough. But as a purely plastic creation, an unusually sensuous essay in cinema povera, Rage is oddly compelling, a genuine one-off.


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