I saw the riveting film “Crash” the other day. Being part of the nominating committee for the Independent Spirit Awards, I’m racing through this years indie nominees. The writing is so well done connecting several threads effortlessly without any feeling of manipulation. The cast is superb and most playing against type. Sandra Bullock is angry the entire film which was for the most part believable. I still had a hard time with Brendan Fraser as the District Attorney. He carries all this character baggage with him and I kept expecting him to say a silly line.
The film is one of these multi-thread stories where everything’s related and yet not. I think of it as the film equivalent of magic realism, that literary genre made famous by South Americans Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, the Italian Italo Calvino and even some of Salman Rushdie. Filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu is famous for this technique best seen in his debut (!) “Amorres Perros” and then the Stateside produced “21 Grams.” “9 Lives” by Rodrigo Garcia, (Garcia-Marquez’ son), which is also nominated for an award, also plays with this world of magical connections.
Crash’s score by Mark Isham feels like cool, papery, texture – like powder under your feet. It’s like frost hanging in the air – which actually works well as the storyline involves Los Angeles on a day when it feels like snow. It never really moves much, but is perfect for what’s happening on screen. Incidentally, it’s all composed, performed and arranged by Isham whose previous work include’s “Little Man Tate” and “Point Break.”
And then I started to think about this word independent film. With such a mega-cast, special effects which include car chases, explosions and helicopter camera shots, how does the other independent filmmaker compete? Yes I know independent film means independent of the old studio system of Hollywood. But when many or most of these studios are just fully owned subsidiaries of the major studios, or have the same kind of muscle, then what’s the difference?