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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Keith Maitland’s TOWER On Independent Lens

Keith Maitland’s intricately conceived and executed Tower, a hybrid, mixed-media documentary, takes advantage of the versatility and cost-effectiveness of animation to reflect on American’s first mass shooting at a school, from the University of Texas Tower on August 1, 1966, when thirteen were murdered and thirty wounded in ninety-six minutes. As with other experiments in the form, like Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, rotoscoped animation has the effect of bringing us both closer and removing us from the events, which are also shown in archival footage. (Richard Linklater’s Austin-made Waking Life is, of course, another important reference.)

[A clip: “Pregnant teenager remembers the moment she was shot.]

The mingling of real and unreal, depicting the events via first-person testimonies is dreamy, and it’s a nightmare. It’s also emotionally shattering, a feat of imagination, but also a feat of empathy. Animation allows the witnesses we hear to also remain  the age onscreen they were fifty years ago, innocent, hopeful, not yet under attack. Elemental yet expressionistic, Tower is an admirable attainment, a broadside from the solar plexus, and the powerhouse ending, partially narrated by Walter Cronkite commenting in the day, is magnificently measured. So much tenderness! So much humanity. Those ten minutes so heartfelt, affirmative, I cried.

[Debuts Tuesday, 14 February at 10pm in most markets.]

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“One of my favorite things in watching any performance on film is when there isn’t a lot of cutting going on and when you get a chance to become really absorbed in the artist in hand. The same way we do, hopefully, at a concert, when we get a chance to really trip in to something that’s happening on stage. Whether the singer’s singing, or one of the other musicians is playing, we sort of stay there instead of cutting round with our eyes a lot.”
~ Jonathan Demme

“We’ve talked about this before in the past, my obsession with the Shakespearean histories having the ideal combination of the sweet and the sour. In ‘Henry IV, Part II’ which we’ve discussed before, in the end of that story it’s very complex and haunting because Prince Hal becomes Henry the King, and he has transcended his hoodlum days and at the ceremony is Falstaff, his good friend with whom he has really fucked around and been a loser with, and Falstaff comes up to him and says, ‘Now that you’re king we can really party,’ and the king famously says, ‘I know thee not, old man.’ It becomes Henry IV’s anointment and Falstaff’s catastrophe. That’s life. I have experienced very little unfettered triumph. There are moments, such as when my children are born, but even that comes with new fears and anxieties. In a sense the better you can communicate that life is both at once, the more powerful over time something becomes. One strives for something where the threads are there because it lasts in way that is very palpable. The idea of a tragedy is powerful in literature and theater, but in cinema it doesn’t work, certainly not commercially, and less so critically. Why is that? I think it has to do with how movies are so close to us.”
~ James Gray