Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nacho Vigalondo's TIME CRIMES

Because I am an old fuddy duddy, I missed the late screening of Time Crimes at MSPIFF. I lamented my need to get 7 hours of sleep when I ran into a friend a few days later who gave this indie thriller a thumbs up. I read the praises of the film on Twitch (is it a coincidence that I saw Todd Brown's name in the credits?), and was excited to see that it would be getting a theatrical run via Magnolia's newly formed genre label Magnet Releasing.

The charm of Time Crimes comes from it's modest means, using structural brains instead of special effects brawn to make an engaging film. Being clever on a budget is not something you see very often in thrillers, which is more than enough reason to champion Time Crimes. It's a simple story with simple characters, but it plays time loop tricks that tested my feeble mind to what it had seen 20 minutes before.

Hector is our antihero. His brief introduction allows us to at least understand that he probably doesn't wear the pants in the family. As his wife lovingly mocks his weakness, Hector doesn't even bother to argue. The couple are fixing up a country house that is surrounded by the beautiful silence of the woods. Hector thinks he sees something in the woods and decides to while away the afternoon by aimlessly looking through his binoculars, starting a chain of events that seem inexplicable the first time around.

Time Crimes builds a great deal of suspense through the simple anticipation that something is going to happen. And once we know what happens, we are compelled to solve the mystery set before us. Wrap someone's head in gauze, put a large black trench coat on him, arm him with some scissors and you have a pretty compelling pursuer. Figuring out the puzzle is half the fun while watching Hector's transformation is the other half. Time Crimes is not without a fair amount of humor that plays off the absurdity of one man caught in a time loop. Hector goes from being passively curious, to actively afraid, to unwittingly confused, to belligerently fed up. His physical trials are equal to his metaphysical feats. For the last quarter of the film, it is Hector's turn to take the reins.

It's hard not to think of the other independent time travel film Primer when watching Time Crimes. It comes at the same subject with a similar style. But where Primer is more analytical, Time Crimes is more visceral and a little less heavy handed. It's ingenuity and modesty might put it below the bar for most movie-goers, but these are the attributes that I find so refreshing. Is Time Crime's the mystery more profound than that in Seven Pound's? Probably not, but I'll bet my movie admission that it is more entertaining.

Word on the street is that David Cronenberg is interested in the remake, and if his last two films are any indication, he'll no doubt make Time Crimes into a real crap hole. Maybe we could see Viggo Mortensen climb into the time travel tank naked. Like so many other home-grown foreign film hits that were farmed out to Hollywood (My Sassy Girl, anyone?), a remake will only negate what makes the original so unique.

Visit the official site of Time Crimes here.

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