Saturday, December 14, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Little Duck (2013) ****

NR, 16 min.
Director: James Murphy
Starring: Nobuaki Kaneko, Katsuya

I’m not a follower of LCD Soundsystem, the band for which electronic musician James Murphy is most well known, but after seeing his debut short film I might give them a little more attention. If he’s as good a musician as he indicates he is a film director with this 16 minutes of film, it’ll be worth it. To the untrained eye, the movie “Little Duck” might seem incomplete, but it is accomplished in its style and its execution.

It tells the story of Yui, an expatriate of Japan, who is summoned home when his brother lands himself in jail. We never find out exactly what his brother is accused of doing. We never find out if he even did it. A friend picks Yui up at the train station and brings him home to his rather messy house to recover from jet lag. The next day Yui visits his brother in jail. The brother asks him to take over his business for him while his legal problems are sorted out. There doesn’t seem to be a much good blood between the two. The friend then takes Yui to his brother’s home and makes him promise to go fishing in the morning. That’s about the entire film.

It may not sound like much, but the movie is rich with what family is about. It’s also rich with the types of choices we find ourselves making as adults. Many of our choices are made for us, and yet even the ones that we don’t appear to make ourselves are very much made by the lives we’ve built. Murphy shows a great knowledge of cinema with his distinct style of seeming to just observe. His camera recalls the shooting style and atmosphere of an Ozu, the great minimalist Japanese director of such films as “Tokyo Story” and “Floating Weeds”. He also incorporates humor in a subtle observational way, especially in the actions of the friend who has orchestrated more of the events than initially guessed by Yui. Even the closing credits display a keen eye and ear for how our modern culture informs our perceptions in contrast to the fairly traditional Japanese architecture found in the movie.

This is a movie that will grow on you. It is one of the features produced by Ron Howard’s Project Imagination in conjunction with Canon. Hopefully, with that type of pedigree aware of the filmmaking skills held within Murphy’s mind, he will be able to land himself a feature film director’s seat soon.

Unfortunately, I cannot embed the film on this site, but you can follow this link to see the film in its entirety.

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