Tuesday, July 26, 2011

RPIFF: Small Town Murder Songs (2010)

There seemed to be some hype surrounding this one, with the screening actually listed as SOLD OUT the day before and my friend Kate choosing this as the one she must see from the entire festival lineup. And so we saw Ed Gass-Donnelly's Small Town Murder Songs with high expectations, comparisons to the early work of the brothers Coen ringing in our ears.

I will start by going on record with the biggest problem I had with the film; it's runtime of 75 minutes. For me this is not a feature film but when you factor in the small detail that the credits may as well have rolled at 69 minutes and the white on black title cards at the beginning of the movie and you have what is basically a long TV show without the ads.

That aside this small, beautifully shot film is about redemption and centres on the murder of a young woman and the local sheriff's investigation of it in a small religious town in Canada.

It really is a beautifully shot film, the long slow takes of the scenery and small town life are given a haunting quality by the not exactly subtle soundtrack, and it's lucky that they are so nice to look at as they provide the bulk of the imagery, padding out the runtime of the film. I'm all for this kind of attention to beauty, film as art etc. but I feel that with Small Town Murder Songs it is largely there to make up for the lack of plot. Sure there are many films that look this beautiful with less plot and many pretty movies with more storylines than needed and both work fine but in this instance it just sits in the uncomfortable middle ground leaving you feeling unfulfilled.

At least two scenes are played in slow motion, almost choreographed to music, bringing to mind that Tears For Fears moment in Donnie Darko or that Mad World song from Donnie Darko. This also feels like an attempt to use style as a disguise for substance.

Seems like I didn't like this movie much. But it was quite good so I will attempt to finish with something else positive. Peter Stormare was superb and initially unrecognisable in the role of Walter, the Sheriff struggling to redeem himself for his violent past, bringing to mind Nick Nolte in Addiction and John Turturro in Fear X with a powerful performance. It is a shame that he was letdown by the occasional use of cliche in the actions of other characters. This certainly was no Coen Brothers movie.

So it didn't live up to the hype or expectation but it was worth the 75 minutes just to watch Peter Stormare and wonder at the beautiful cinematography.

Coming to the end of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival reviews here at blahblahblahgay, only 2 left. How's it been for you so far? Leave me some blah below.


  1. Peter Stormare is one of my favourite actors! He's fone some great stuff in Sweden and now getting interesting roles worldwide as well. This seems like a film I'd love! Have to find it somewhere..

  2. is it odd that i just assumed he was american and it had never occurred to me that he had worked outside of hollywood?


  3. yeah this film is Canadian anyway... ;)

  4. oh blondoner i knew that, but all american movies are made in canada these days so they're like the same thing but with less money! not been much posted from you recently, taking a break from watching films or have you simply seen everything worth seeing?