Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Wild Canaries": fast paced "murder comedy" in Brooklyn, post Hurricane Sandy

Wild Canaries” seemed to be a big hit at the Baltimore, Maryland film festival Saturday night (at the UB Langsdale Library auditorium, very near Penn Station), with a sold-out crowd.  Director Lawrence Michael Levine pays homage to the comedy-mystery genre, a sort of mixture of Woody Allen “Manhattan” with a touch of Hitchcock (“The Trouble with Harry”) and some older TV series like the “The Thin Man”.  The film, shot in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, is faced paces with a pounding music score by Michael Montes (whom I believe is wired into NYC’s current group of young composers) whose rhythm drives the action almost like it was ballet.

The film starts and ends with actual canaries (homage to “The Birds”, perhaps) – and I recall that during the Cold War, the word “canary” (beyond the coal mine reference) had some sort of significance to spies, as did “afterbirth”.

Noah and Barri, living together as fiancées, are played by Levine (who says he is 36 in the film and that looks about right) and real life wife Sophia Takal.  Almost at the beginning of the film, an elderly neighbor is found dead in a neighboring apartment.  Barri feels the need to play private-eye, which will strain the upcoming nuptials.   First she is suspicious of a greedy and perhaps mincing and lazy son Anthony (Kevin Corrigan), but soon has reason to wonder about the building owner Damien (Jason Ritter).  The film, in double time, develops the idea that Damien has been in financial trouble ever since Hurricane Sandy (he didn’t have flood insurance, which you need in lower Brooklyn) and needed to get rid of the elderly tenant.  Damien also has the hobby of making real life masks of all the other residents in the building and wearing them.  In time, Noah rightfully fears he could be framed for murder. 

Jason Ritter had played the hero Sean Walker in the NBC series “The Event”, where he had been a super-attractive young man who doesn’t know he is an extraterrestrial alien himself while fighting for his human friends.  Here, he pays the actor’s dues, looking unseemly as a villain.  He parades around shirtless, with love handles, boobs and a little bit of a gut, and scraggly but meager chest hair, far from the hero of his previous role. I felt rather put off;  I life my heroes to remain such forever.

The official site is here. It’s been screened in Austin (SXSW), Boston, Montclair NJ, and Baltimore so far, with Little Teeth pictures as the production company.  It is shot in full 2.35:1.  The shoot took 21 days, and the outdoor scenes all look like real New York, with many East River shots from Brooklyn.  The new One World Trade Center looks almost, but not completely, done in the film.

 There was a lively question and answer. 
First three pictures: around Red Hook, Feb. 2013, my own personal trip;  next two, near the festival site in Baltimore; last is at the screening. 

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