Friday, June 25, 2010

Review: REC

  REC (2007) is as much about TV journalism and the creation of the moving image as it is about a quarantined Barcelona apartment building. Because events unfold entirely through the lens of a television news crew, the camera is essentially a character, putting us as in the action as cinematically possible.
  Our guide and unwitting heroine is Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco), a young reporter who, along with her cameraman, Pablo - played with athletic and graceful cinematic skill by the film's actual camera op, Pablo Rosso - is assigned to cover the work-a-day life of a group of firefighters. She quickly becomes restless, quipping to her laconic cameraman that she wishes there would be an emergency call for them to film. She soon gets her wish; her and Pablo ride along with the firemen to the doomed apartment building where the rest of the movie takes place.
  As a student of the moving image, what fascinated me in the first act of the film was how the news crew behaves in a situation that quickly deteriorates, and how the other characters react to the omnipresence of the camera; a policeman who takes charge of the unfolding crisis is at constant odds with it. Angela, being first and foremost a reporter, tells Pablo to "film this, film that. Did you you shoot that? Are you rolling?" When Angela is interviewing a little girl in the building after it is quarantined, the child's mother keeps offering answers, until the reporter stops her, reminding the woman that she's not in the shot, the girl is. Even in a heightened and possibly life-threatening situation, the newswoman is ever mindful of how her image looks and sounds. In other scenes, her and Pedro brave ill-lit rooms that may contain blood-thirsty cannibals just to get a shot. It is almost as if Angela is directing the very film she is a character in; whether this notion was on the filmmakers' minds or not, it is profound nonetheless, and it totally works. This meta-fictional undercurrent is only one of a bevy of original bits of genius contained in REC. 
  The story unfolds in a loud-quiet-loud rhythm, like a Pixies song; there are extended scenes of hushed, pulsating terror punctuated by sudden explosions of blood-flecked chaos. Added to this is the fact that we see events transpire through only one camera, so there is no safe refuge to cut away to; we are taken along for the ride whether we like it or not. Because of the one-camera, real-time aspect of the film, there are several sustained shots that last for upwards of 20 minutes each, involving a dozen or more actors running, falls, fighting, and gushing blood. This in itself is a feat to behold.
  A sequel, REC 2, is scheduled to hit American screens this summer, but it is difficult to fathom how it can top this masterpiece of taut horror film making.

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