Thursday, 28 September 2006

Breaking and Entering (2006)

Quite possibly the longest and moving Apple commercial I’ve ever watched

Breaking and Entering takes product placement to a whole new level. Forget the Switch Campaign or the ubiquitous appearance of the iMac in every sitcom. You could put a gazillion G5 iMac Pros in a movie and it will still look like a cheap product placement, miles away from the artistry of Breaking and Entering, which is an entire film revolving around Macs lost and Macs found. It's like famed director Anthony Minghella once won a short film contest sponsored by Apple (yes, the sort of contest that requires aspiring filmmakers to feature their product) and has turned it into a serious feature film. Love, alienation, betrayal, trust and forgiveness! With Macs!

Will (Jude Law) is apparently a partner with an architectural firm that’s just moved into a seedy part of London, presumably in order to tear down the crime-infested tenements, blow up the grimy streets, and replace it with something visually impressive and expensive, but more hideous and tacky – that, by the way, is called urban conservation. Instead of getting firebombed by (justifiably) angry anarchists or chronic out-of-work immigrants, the architecture office is burgled and wiped clean of its Macs by rooftop-leaping Yamakasis from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Twice. Because like most pretentious architecture, the 2-storey office building has a glass roof for Yamakasis to hide on, so they can spy on the security system and break a few tiles to drop down from the roof.

Everything starts getting pretty weird when Will stakes out the company compounds and catches teen delinquent Miro (Rafi Gavron) going for a hat-trick. It’s not just weird because it’s wildly improbable that thieves – even mentally challenged ones – would want to strike thrice at the same place, but because he proceeds to follow the boy home and visit his seamstress mother Amira (Juliet Binoche) on a daily basis, on business and then for sociable company. Without the knowledge of his estranged, long-term live-in Swedish girlfriend Liv (Robin Wright Penn), who has been somewhat distant ever since her daughter developed autism.

Since this is a feature length advertisement, there is a dollop of love, alienation, betrayal, trust and forgiveness involved. It’s easy to tell that Minghella isn’t going for the weird arty existential French movie with optional extra extra-marital sex scenes. Even if the movie hints weakly at less-than-selfless intentions on both Will and Amira’s decisions, they’re such nice people who don’t really mean to harm each other. It’s also easy to tell that Minghella isn|’t going for the weird depressing Swedish movie with estranged couples. Even if Will and Liv stumble about with a shell-shocked expression lifted from Ingmar Bergman’s later domestic dramas, their plight is too showy and overdone, with the autistic and hyperactive daughter. Minghella should have hired a different cinematographer, preferably a music video producer, because Benoît Delhomme’s camerawork accentuates the cursory plot resemblances of Breaking and Entering to the two genres.

Then again, if this were a French existential film, there would be more unabashedly amoral sex, more music, less characters, and much less moralising. And the film would be about half an hour shorter. If this were a depressing Swedish film, there would be more moral indifference, more irony, and less characters, and less chase scenes. And the film would be about half an hour shorter, ditching the last 10 minutes of the film and choosing a silent car ride between the estranged couple as its bleak ending scene.

Neither here nor there, with too much extraneous plot lines that pop in and out intermittently, with an inordinate desire to give everyone an improbably guilt-free, consequence-free happy ending, Breaking and Entering makes a good full-length Apple advertisement but not a movie worthy of respect, despite Mighella's pretensions to Eurocinema here.

First published at incinemas on 22 March 2007

No comments: