Friday, October 8, 2010

Higgens Network: Catfish

Catfish is one of the most talked about movies of the year, but most of the dialog is begging people not to talk about it. It’s a documentary that is about the relationship between a twenty-something photographer in New York and a family in Michigan that is using his photos as inspiration for their art.

To honor the encouraged silence, I shall not reveal anymore of the plot but only the movie as a whole.

After films like Exit Through the Gift Shop and the atrocious I’m Still Here, it is difficult to trust narrative documentaries. Walking out of Catfish, I didn’t think it was real because it would fit too well with the film’s themes for there to be technological fakery. Also I never bought the characters were making this documentary before the plot develops into something more cinematic. Was it just a coincidence this became so interesting?

Yet the filmmakers swear this is true—just like Mr. Casey Affleck was swearing last year. If this is true, then it’s still not compelling enough. People have raved about the ending but I found it very unsatisfying especially with its build-up in the movie. This would make for a powerful segment on This American Life but it’s stretched too much for a feature film.

There are plenty of fun ways the filmmakers told the story. It’s all told through degrees of common technology. Places are examined through Google Earth, research through YouTube, and the plot is centered around Facebook. Technology controls these lives but of course the movie is also subject to the same socializing technology with their video camera.

This film is not criticizing technology like a fearful 50s sci-fi movie. Instead it is curious about the evolution—not devolution—of online intimacy. This topic is so interesting but Catfish focuses too much on the plot and the facts that there is too swiftly of a shift when it asks personal psychological queries of its subjects.

The ending and ultimately the movie did not capture me like the rest of the country because I never cared about its characters. I only cared about them in relations to where the plot was heading and since the plot lead to a point that quickly plateaued the film has to be labeled as a disappointment. Apparently there is an upcoming 20/20 show devoted to this movie and the reveals in the final act so that may clarify how real it was. Either way, there is a severe emotional disconnect in the narrative of the film and that’s doesn’t count as the film’s point.

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