Sunday, July 30, 2006

Keane (2005)

Lodge Kerrigan has an uncanny talent for depicting some unpleasant neuroses in ways that force the audience into identifying stances. Here, he's reworked the materials of his debut Clean, Shaven and managed to improve upon it; the streamlining of the narrative (i.e. no cop-on-the-hunt subplot) works to the film's advantage. Damian Lewis's extraordinary performance is the whole show; all jitters and stumbling, rushing words, he perfectly captures the sensation of a man on the verge of a nervous collapse, his emotions ruled by forces he can't control or understand. Meanwhile, Kerrigan uses his mise-en-scene not just as a storytelling device but as an externalization of Lewis's mental instability, which means lots of shaky handheld photography and uncomfortably long takes (information overload and all that). The former tactic is something I find hit or miss, but here it works beautifully, creating a palpable nervous tension that keeps the film hurtling along even as very little actually happens; the latter, meanwhile, is responsible for some amazing scenes (including a brilliantly depicted sexual encounter in a bathroom stall). Kerrigan also keeps his framing tight and his close-ups myriad; as such we're forced into Lewis's frame of reference and have to wonder what we're not being shown. So, is this a human drama framed as a thriller, or is it a thriller that mutates into a human drama? Fuck it, it's both. And it's pretty great.

Grade: A-


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