Saturday, 14 April 2007

Haven (DVD) (2007)

Legolas ditches pretty-boy looks in bid for artistic credibility

Are you still disappointed that Alejandro Inarritu and Guillermo Arriaga did not get their Oscars for Babel? One would think that after their initial critical success with 21 Grams, and Amores perros, the Inarritu/Arriaga signature portmanteau movie style had established itself as a major cinema genre when Crash won the Best Picture Oscar a year later. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but immortality is when your imitators win accolades. I mention these movies because I suspect that some of you really love this genre, but are getting tired of watching the same DVDs over and over again. I’d recommend you pick up Haven right now from the DVD store, on account that it’s a portmanteau movie, and shares producers with Crash.

You’ll have to note, though, that Haven was made before Crash, and adjust your expectations accordingly – the portmanteau formula is still being experimented on here – but I believe that the movie delivers most of what we expect from this genre. For starters, there are only 2 intertwining stories. The first tells of a father-daughter team who arrive in the Cayman Islands not for the tourism or its status as a tax haven, but because the father is on the run from the Feds for illegal banking transactions involving the tax haven. On the exotic, alien island, the two must find a way to rebuild their lives, but what they learn about the island – and themselves – may change them forever. The second tale has Orlando Bloom in an interracial romance with the daughter of a powerful citizen of the Caymans. He’s dirt poor, she’s rich, and their love will never be sanctioned by her brother and father, leading not just to a tragedy for the lovebirds, but a painful and tragic post-tragedy existence for the two. And of course, the principle characters will impact each other in unforeseen and lasting ways...

Like I’ve said, you should lower your expectations for Haven. Bob Yari and Frank Flowers have created a raw work – the lack of a third story in the mixture, the too-linear style of storytelling, and the lack of intercutting between the storylines wound the effectiveness and unity of the movie to a certain extent. In fact you may, by the end of the movie, actually be able to identify where the third story should have come from. What makes Haven a worthy film to watch (despite the mistakes made by its first-time director) is Frank Flowers’s instinctive use of the camera, the editing style, and most importantly, how he brings out the seductive colours and sounds of the Caymans.

DVD review

Haven has an interesting history: although debuting in film festivals in 2004, the movie never had a cinema release till 2006, and only then a limited release in the US, Japan, and Singapore. Whatever the reason behind its late release, it’s disappointing that there is only one feature on the DVD, a very slight making of featurette that has Bob Yari, Frank Flowers, and Anthony Mackie talk briefly about the movie. Their appearances in this video is dwarfed by clips from the movie itself. Why this is so baffles me – the "making of" feature resembles the standard promotional features that air on television to entertain the most casual of audiences, but this movie was never destined for a commercial release. Where is the in-depth feature(s) that we expect on a DVD for a film of such artistic ambitions? Where is the director’s commentary? These are features that fans of portmanteau movies would expect, and this may disappoint them greatly.

First published at incinemas on 13 April 2007

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