A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday DVD report

With a title like Life Is Hot In Cracktown, I was mostly expecting a throwaway exploitation film with, I hoped, a tolerably engaging story. But the movie actually turned out to be pretty serious: it was well acted, engaging, and stylishly directed. As widely reported elsewhere, however, the film is indeed extremely brutal.

As described by writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo in the thoughtful "making of" featurette on the DVD, the aim of the film was to present an in-your-face, unsanitized, essentially hopeless view of life in the ghetto, but then inject as much humanity as possible into the crooks, drug addicts, murderers, and fringe characters on display. To paraphrase Mr. Giovinazzo: "I wanted to show that these people, despite their problems and situations, ultimately aren't all that different from you or me, that we're all maybe one or two pieces of bad luck away from living lives just as tragic and desperate."

This approach makes the film interesting, as normal, mundane concerns and interactions are stirred into the brutality and addictions and abusive behavior. So we end up caring for these people (well, many of them, anyway), even as we're angry at them for their behaviors. Also making the film interesting is its sympathetic view of its two transsexual characters, as the story doesn't lump them into the bad stuff going on around them (well, except for the fact that they're seriously drug addicted like so many of the film's characters), but rather portrays them as people trying to be true to themselves.

Before concluding, I should again emphasize the brutality in the film. This isn't an "afterschool special" version of drug addiction and urban blight. This is very dark material, with few rays of light, that some people just won't want to sit through no matter how well done. However, if you're like me and can sometimes embrace difficult, harsh material in order to avoid seeing the same old thing all the time, this film might be worth a look.

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