Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Brick scares me in a way I cannot describe to you unless you too are a young director looking to make their mark on cinema. Rian Johnson managed to make a low budget feature so awe inspiring that I cannot stop watching it as I think of what my next project might be. I can only hope that my next feature directorial effort will land somewhere in the ball park that Brick occupies, and yet the film intimidates me enough that I’m not sure how to pull something like that off on a lack of a budget.

If you haven’t seen Brick here’s why I think it’s so awe inspiring.

I’m going to start with the visuals, the cinematography. This film is fully planned visually, somehow balancing an Orange County setting with dirt and grit. As I live in Orange County, not too far from where Brick was filmed, I know what this local looks like and somehow Johnson and DP Steve Yedlin managed to make San Clemente look like a place I’d never seen before. On as meager a budget as they had, the duo put a consistent color scheme, texture and feel into their film that set it apart from so many low budget films. The cinematography tells the story as the characters go through it.

You can’t talk about Brick without talking about the cast. This is the film that helped launch Joseph Gordon-Levitt into the realm of a hard core indy actor and shake loose from the mantle of television he’d had on him. In a career that’s since spanned some of the richest roles in recent cinema, Brick still stands as one of his best performances. Getting that kind of performance out of your lead actor, and achieving riveting and genuine performances out of everyone else onscreen is a thing to be envious of. As a director it’s hard enough to get one outstanding performance out of your cast, but to get every actor to appear onscreen as if they were born into the roles they are playing is a thing of downright beauty.

One cannot watch even the trailer for this film without noticing the writing, again by Rian Johnson. The dialogue that drips off the characters tongues seems ripped from Dashiell Hammett and the plot could easily fit within any noir made in the era of Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder. This is a film so intricate that the audience gets lost with the characters and if any one element were out of place the entire film would come crashing down around us all.

Every single element that awes me about Brick comes back to one central element – Rian Johnson and his directorial style. Johnson manages to hit it out of the park from the opening shots of Brick; for a first feature he artfully merges tone, acting, dialogule, the visuals and the plot in such a way that his directorial stamp is clearly seen. Along with the story of Brendan Frye you can see the hand of Rian Johnson, and that is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve on a first feature.

Rian Johnson is someone I am both humbled by and inspired by because we’re young directors from the same county, and yet I have yet to be able to achieve what he has already artfully succeeded at doing.

Brendan: No, bulls would gum it. They'd flash their dusty standards at the wide-eyes and probably find some yegg to pin, probably even the right one. But they'd trample the real tracks and scare the real players back into their holes, and if we're doing this I want the whole story. No cops, not for a bit.

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