Friday, June 23, 2017

Directorial Debut: A FISTFUL OF FINGERS

Welcome to a new installment of DIRECTORIAL DEBUTS, where we look at some of the best, most interesting, and iconic directors and the films that started their careers. Just ahead of the release of Baby Driver, we’re going to take a look at the directorial debut of acclaimed director Edgar Wright…A FISTFUL OF FINGERS!

A Fistful of Fingers is the first feature length film directed by acclaimed British filmmaker Edgar Wright. After making the short film Dead Right in 1993, Wright made this similarly low budget-amateur feature film just two years later before he disappeared into the television ether before re-emerging with Shaun of the Dead in 2004. This film is a spoof/parody of classic westerns, particularly the Sergio Leone film from which this film took its name. The film stars Graham Low, Martin Curtis, Oli van der Vijver, Quentin Green, and William Cornes.

Much like his first short film, this film is extremely amateurish. It isn’t shot particularly well, acted particularly well, or, frankly, constructed or written very well. Unlike Dead Right however, this film makes you wonder what Wright could do with a spoof western if he really were to make one with solid resources at his disposal. I can’t call this a good film in any uncertain terms, but it’s a film that I believe is representative of the rough edges of an artist about to sand them away and come into full bloom.

What I think this film does impeccably well is find the key artery to what makes a western a western and brilliantly deconstructs it in a totally ingenious way. The way Wright cleverly pulls imagery and motifs that fans of cinema will recognize gives this movie a very deep truth and effectiveness that makes it incredibly watchable despite some technical weaknesses.

In addition to its actual understanding of the films it is trying to spoof, I thought the humor was effectively timed and delivered. I did find some jokes sorely underwritten, no question, but one thing Edgar Wright has seemingly always had was an eye for timing and editing. He knew what he had to put where and he was cleverly able to move me as an audience member through this tale and get a few legitimate chuckles along the way.

Finally, the animated portions of this movie were neat. They weren’t anything fantastic, but they were cool to see and felt like they enhanced the storytelling when they very easily could have ruined it in all sorts of ways. Changing the medium of expression is hard, and Wright’s ability to do it in this film really showed me some of clever decisions I would come to expect from him later on.

As I said from the outset, and have continued to stress, this film is poor and amateurish. You don’t have to look any further than image quality. It is facially a substandard film. That doesn’t mean it is one that you can’t like, per se, but it sets it off on the wrong foot. Further, there is nothing in the rest of the cinematography that inspires any optical interest from the audience. The camera movements, such as they are, are not terribly interesting and even the framing is somewhat off in moments.

Further, the sound in this film is horrendous. There are several high pitched squeals that made my ears feel like they were going to bleed. I get what it’s getting at, and maybe even making fun of, but it didn’t make for an enjoyable experience for me. Moreover, the sound mix itself isn’t good and really shows the limitations of filmmaking at this level. You feel every dollar not spent and that is never something you want to be thinking about when watching a film.

Finally, I must comment on the acting. It is truly atrocious. I think that if this film had some real quality performers in it, the script could have been salvaged to the point that this would make a pretty fun parody film. Sadly, that’s not what we have in store. This film has completely awful performers who give flat and uninteresting performances. Graham Low in the lead role is far and away the strongest but even he feels a little college drama class than someone in an actual theatrical film.

Overall, this film is one that left me really wondering what Edgar Wright could achieve in this space. Imagine if he had actual horses instead of obviously fake ridiculous looking ones. Imagine if he could shoot in stunning vistas and legitimate sets. Imagine if he had a cast that matched him on talent. All I can do is imagine. This is an ok amateur film. But, at the end of the day, it was his first time out and that is nothing to shake a stick at.

Ryan’s Score: 3/10

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