Last night I saw Joel and Nash Edgerton‘s The Square (Apparition, 4.6), a James M. Cain-like noir in a low-rent, not-terribly-bright, mullet-wearing Australian way. The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mate. I’ll hold my review for now, but the timing of the release is fair game for discussion, I think.
The Square was shot in ’07 and released in Australia in the summer of ’08. Apparition picked it up at last year’s South by Southwest and then waited for the right moment. I don’t want to sound like a jerk in Apparition’s eyes, but I think that an audience is missing something when watching a nearly three-year-old film in a first-run theatre.
I’m not saying The Square is a “dated ” film — it’s not. (Except for the fact that two blue-collar male characters wear ghastly 1980s mullets.) But there was an original spark that went into the filming of it — a spark and a climatorial vibe that had a lot to do with the specific conditions of life on the planet earth back then. And I think you lose the vitality of that chemical composition when you wait three years to show it. And I sensed a faint weathered factor as I was watching it. That or simply knowing it was shot in ’07 affected my perception.
Wine improves with age but movies — a living, breathing, moving-train art form — don’t. It’s not always true, but you often sense on some level the lack of mollecular immediacy and freshness in a film that was shot 18 months or two years before viewing. And you can really sense if it was shot three years earlier. Life’s particulars change in small and imperceptible ways as the months roll along, and then eventually they begin to stand out in stronger relief.
I don’t know what the rule of thumb needs to be, but it’s best if you see a film within a year or so of principal photography. That way it feels like a movie that belongs to the here-and-now. The initial September ’08 showings of The Hurt Locker, which was shot in ’07, felt more vital on some level than it did upon the commercial opening in June ’09, I can tell you. I’m sure there are dozens of examples.
I get that Apparition needs product and that they fell in love with the Edgerton brothers because suddenly these guys are in vogue. I saw Joel play Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire at BAM.