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Bullies and Cinephilia

Bullies and Cinephilia

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The fears of parents worldwide: just what are your kids doing in their spare time? Along with his best friend Owen (Owen Williams), Matt (maniacal director Matt Johnson) decides to take on a gang of bullies he dubs The Dirties in a no-budget epic action farce made for his high-school film class, a revenge fantasy à la Tarantino packed to the brim with cinematic references and surreptitiously filmed prankery. All, of course, does not go as planned, actual bullying increases, and Matt comes up with the idea of making the film again, this time as a documentary, which tests Matt and Owen's friendship, and brings to the fore the degree to which Matt has become disattached from reality. The impressive quality of Johnson's feature debut is that it willingly assumes a now-too-familiar, juvenile form to deal with its juvenile subject – call it the mockumentary, with action shot from a handheld camera by an unseen, yet acknowledged cameraman – but the enaction of the concept is more mature than in untold number of generic art films flooding the scene today. (This guy is going to be big.) Winner of multiple awards at American independent film festivals, including the main prize at this year's Slamdance, The Dirties is a rioyous comedy, make no doubt about it, but paced and edited in a dazz‑ling way that its thematic seriousness seeps, leaving a bad taste in your mouth about the dangers of untouched cinephilia, when taken to the extreme.

Mark Peranson
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