Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Ten, as another example of "anthology" filmmmaking


The Ten is a new comedy directed by Paul Wain from ThinkFILM and City Lights Home Entertainment. It reminds me both of “Paris je t’aime” and of the recent “On the Lot” episodes in being a series of short “films” or short stories, adding up to a length of about 96 minutes. Each story is based on one of the Ten Commandments and pokes fun at the religiosity and righteousness usually associated with this great Old Testament statement of moral values. Each story is somewhat artificial, combining unrelated ideas and making them hang together with plays on words, and the stories are somewhat linked.

The first story, based on the First Commandment, is the most illustrative. Adam Brody plays a skydiver who gets stuck in the dirt and cannot be moved, as if lost in quicksand. A Truman-show like world is built around him and he becomes a celebrity and is worshipped as a “god”.

The second commandment is mocked by a local (Justin Theroux) in Mexico calling himself Jesus, and enticing a librarian (Grethcen Moll) to seduce him.

Then a surgeon (Ken Marino) leaves scissors in his patient as a “goof” and is sent to prison for murder.

Coveting is shown when a policeman (Live Schreiber) covets his neighbor’s cat scan machines, and plays “keep up the Jones” until the neighborhood is covered, to the consternation of zoning laws, with overflow cat scan machines stored in pack rat fashion. Then they are needed.

Honor to parents is shown when an white actor (Oliver Platt) is hired by a mother (Kerri Kenny-Silver) to play Arnold Schwarzegger (just as in The Simpsons) develop loyalty from her African American boys.

The a “wife” is coveted in as an inmate (Robert Corddry) tries to steal the surgeon from another inmate.

Winona Ryder plays a shoplifter (as in real life) stealing a ventriloquist’s puppet.

Gossip is shown in an animated featurette with a lot of scatology and vomiting.

A. D. Miles plays a henpecked husband who plays sick, to start a male pseudo-gay nudists club at home, but then the preacher calls. That’s how he honors the Sabbatah,

And Jeff Reigert plays host Paul Rudd, who carries on an affair that gets in to a divorce, and that spills over into the narration. A stage is set up that sort of reminds one of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” or perhaps even of a Dogme movie. Rudd needs to lose his undershirt.

Curiously, the film also reminds me of Jill Sprechcer’s “13 Conversations about One Thing” (2001), where that one thing is “happiness.” And although very different in tone, David Fincher's film "Se7en" (1995) certain had a similar concept, a religious list (the Seven Deadly Sins).

Film students may want to compare this "anthology" to the loose political satire by Luis Bunuel, "The Phantom of Liberty" (1974, Janus / Criterion Collection) ("La fantome de la liberte"), with its tangential episodes, the most famous being the commode dinner party. Or even Jill Sprecher's "Thirteen Conversations about One Thing" (2001, Sony Pictures Classics) -- that thing being "love" -- with some loosely connected but touching stories, especially the firing scene.

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