By Gautier Coiffard
In April, Ebertfest took place in Champaign, Illinois. It was film critic Roger Ebert’s very last legacy. The movies shown in his beloved Virginia Theater were his final goodbye. The selection, including classics, indie films, and UFO, was delightful. Each movie had its own universe, but one of them was, in my humble opinion, particularly outstanding.
It’s written and directed by newbie Randy Moore and is called “Escape From Tomorrow.” The horror fantasy stars Roy Abramsohn as a man who suffers from increasingly more disturbing visions and frightening experiences during the last day of a family vacation to Walt Disney World.
I had actually heard a lot about this feature before the festival, but I had no idea it would be there. It was without a doubt the Everest of my Ebertfest(!).
Watching the movie I had the impression I was back in 1960 (okay, I was born in the ‘80s but you get the idea), when the French New Wave was emerging from the battlefield. Before then, movies were slow, academic, following every rule and, in fact, boring. A bunch of filmmakers said, “FUCK THAT SHIT,” and I almost literally quote, so it’s cool.
These directors and writers brought life and spontaneity to the movies. There were bored with the old-style, slow French films that would all look the same, all smell like the odor of your grandfather. I’m not saying that these movies suck; some, of course, were grandiose. What I mean is by then, filmmaking had already reached a point where it needed to be renewed.
And this renewal came from the so-called movement of the Nouvelle Vague (the New Wave, for those who will dare to ask). One scene seems to be too slow? Lets invent the jump cut and destroy the hell of it! After the lovemaking scene? Lets have the lady NOT cover her damn breasts with a bed sheet. There was that kind of spirit.
Well, I’m writing about this precisely because “Escape From Tomorrow” reminded me of this spirit. Let me once again be a cultural snob and mention Jean-Luc Godard’s “A bout de souffle” (“Breathless”), THE masterful start of the “New Wave.”
To be able to film on the famed Champs Élysées, Godard hid his camera in a glorious baby stroller. Who cares about the authorization to shoot when the image has already been stolen, right? With “Escape From Tomorrow,” director Moore did the exact same thing at Disney World. You want this set: you either pay for it or you steal it. Although it's not really stealing since Disney didn’t loose a penny and the Champs Élysées remains one of the most visited avenues in, my dear readers, the world.
And it’s not only the camera work that made me think: “Am I in the 1960s, where is my moustache!?” While watching “Escape From Tomorrow,” I felt freedom, this ‘murican invention. Freedom of the actors, freedom of the director to go completely nuts.
I guess it’s pretty politically incorrect that Abramsohn is attracted by a teenager wearing braces, but again, who cares? This is new. This is not something we've seen an exponential number of times
I don’t know if director Moore took inspiration from the French New Wave. I actually don’t think so. You don’t need “inspiration” to be a rebel. You simply are or you are not. And Moore does it with class.
Now allow me to write about the camera. The movie was shot with a Canon DSLR. That's obviously not new. More and more low-budget filmmakers use it. But this was the first time I felt that the camera itself was not the star of the movie. It was just a useful tool, nothing more.
So far, each time I saw a movie shot this way, I was under the impression that nothing was more important than playing with this new gadget. In “Escape from Tomorrow,” the Canon is not a gadget. It’s just a camera doing the job it’s asked to do.
Gautier Coiffard is a free-lance movie critic who divides his time between his native France and the United States.