Friday, 13 April 2012

For Your Consideration...Go Fish (Rose Troche, USA, 1994)

This great little film came out in the same year as Clerks and shares its grainy black and white aesthetic and naturalist acting with that superb movie of Kevin Smith's.

Set in Chicago, it tells the story of Max, a pretty tomboy who falls for the shy and androgynous Eli. It's the exciting early stages of a relationship when everything is new. Both Max and Eli have the same friends and you see the relationship unfold while it is being discussed by a chorus made up of their acquaintances, ex-lovers and co-workers, who are lying on their backs, side by side in their funky student apartments, looking straight up at the camera and talking. It's a great way to see all their reactions at once. The setting lends a lighthearted formality to their conversation that raises it above the mundane and there is a general air of goodwill and fellow-feeling that is normally hard to reproduce on film without being saccharine.

There is something about great films that were consciously made in black and white during the colour era, like Psycho (1960), The Third Man (1949) and Night of The Hunter (1955). Although the reason for going b&w was often a budgetary one, these films are at once natural and stylised, low rent and magical. The black shades are more saturated in these earlier films. Go Fish is grainier, perhaps a bit more digital, but has a similar elegant simplicity. Its beneficent aura defuses any self-consciousness over the sexual politics of the movie. Max is cute and you fall for her and her girlfriend in the classic way that you fall for both parties in any good romantic work of art.

Go Fish won various awards and was nominated for the Grand Jury prize at Sundance. Guinevere Turner, who co-wrote it, plays Max. She went on to become a screenwriter (American Psycho) and the director, Rose Troche went on to become a director for TV shows such as Six Feet Under, Ugly Betty and Law and Order. I can't think of another movie that manages quite such a light touch with emotions, and follows the arc of a love story so deftly, balancing rancour and suspicion, joy and friendship in such judicious measures. Go see.

Will Mount - @wylvis

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