Saturday, 11 October 2014

Film #11: 'Mr. Jones'

Found footage, more like FOND footage, am I right? People love these things, don't they?
Well, whoever made this film did, or didn't. It's not entirely clear.
What is clear is that 'Mr. Jones' is another one of those films that attempts to use shaky handheld cameras to create tension, but then tries to take things in a completely different direction.



'Mr. Jones' is an odd one, it's like someone tried to make a found footage film in the style of a Terrence Malick movie, particularly 'The Tree of Life' - the films opens with a lot of close-up shots of nature and the outdoors, with a brooding male voice delivering a monologue about the nature of self and nature and is this documentary worth it for the strain it's putting on the couple's relationship and blah blah blah.
The shots looks nice and everything, but none of it really works for the whole vibe the film is going for. Instead of grainy shaky footage we treated to very well framed 
Most of the time you spend wondering why they shot scenes, there's one scene that features the couple sleeping in bed, only to be woken, then retrieving the camera to go see what the noise is all about.
It's a found footage film that doesn't want to be, and this is VERY obvious as the film goes on.
Of course their camera has a selfie function, which they switch between every minute or so, and of course they actually have multiple cameras which they have set up indoors at all times.

It starts with a couple going to a cabin in the woods to shoot a nature documentary, we're not told what kind of nature documentary, why they thought they should do it, or why it consists of nothing but close up shots of grass waving in the breeze, gently letting the sun shine through, or insects crawling along branches.
But, it's all in aid of making a nature documentary, and a catalogue of each of the couple's fights (interspersed with more brooding voice-overs, and long 'arty' shots of nature) until the couple find a creepy scarecrow in the woods. Rather than be scared they identify it as the work on an underground artist name Mr. Jones - a sort of nature's Banksy - and realize that he must live nearby.
When they see him in the woods one day he refuses to talk to them, so they do the only thing that they can can do when an artist refuses an interview, they break into his house.
Now they accidentally break into his house the first time, but the second time it's on purpose, when inside they find more creepy imagery and find the time to record themselves reacting to the occupant coming home while they rummage about his house.

The films goes in three stages. First, 'arty' Terrence Malick-styled documentary stage.
Second, the every found footage trope stage.
Third, David Lynch inspired mess. By any independent standard it would be considered a mess.
I say "inspired" and "styled", what I really should be saying is that instead of giving nods to others work this film headbutts them outright.

It's in this last section that the films changes direction completely, cuts are fast and many, flashbacks and weird reveals, the camera holds tight, no longer the shaky selfie-shtick, possibly to add to tension but also due to limited space for angles that far up the director's own ass.

A lot of reviews draw attention to this structure and how it doesn't work (especially the final third) and a lot of reviews are very very right.
While some might praise the director for trying something different they also condemn him for failing so badly at making a good film, and this is where I come down on the film.
I don't want to spoil the last third, but whatever you think of the film up until that point the last third will spoil this film itself for you.
As generous as I could try to be about this film, it'd be cherry-picking out of a thorny decaying tree.

'Mr. Jones' is on Netflix UK & Ireland.

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