Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
ADIFF ’16: Hogtown
writing about the disappearances of Toronto theater magnate Ambrose Small and
author Ambrose Bierce, Charles Fort (as in “Fortean”) wondered if someone was “collecting
Ambroses.” Maybe they should have looked in Chicago. That is where Daniel
Nearing relocates Small (now Greenaway), using his case in much the same way
Doctorow employed the Henry K. Thaw-Stanford White murder in Ragtime. In 1919, Prohibition was not
yet the law of the land, but Chicago was already a dangerous place. African
American police detective DeAndre Son Carter has a unique vantage point on the
city’s vice and violence in Daniel Nearing’s Hogtown (trailer
which screens during the 2016 African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York.
after making racist complaints about Chicago’s demographic trends, the
missing-presumed dead Greenaway was last seen trudging to points unknown in the
snow. Suspicion will logically fall on his wife and the company account, who
seem to be surprisingly close. However, the mystery remains unsolved. It would
be quite a coup if Carter could deliver the killer. Consequently, he devotes
quite a bit of time to the case, but the direction it takes will become awkward
for him. Meanwhile, he pursues a romance with a woman who might even be more
damaged than himself.
Like Ragtime, the presently and
future famous walk in and out of Hogtown,
especially the somewhat PTSD-rattled Ernest Hemingway and his soon to be
estranged mentor, Sherwood Anderson. The privileged and the marginalized both
have their roles to play. In the case of Herman Wilkins, it is the dual role of
Carter and homeless Marquis Coleman, an unusual casting strategy that is not
exploited in an Adrian Messenger way for
novelty’s sake. In both cases, Wilkins is a raw and seething presence, who commands
he is the only one who really has a chance to shine, because most of the
supporting women get most of their screen time during stilted sex scenes, while
the rest of the men are either decidedly minor players or somewhat caricatured,
like Alexander Sharon’s gawky Hemingway.
Nearing’s style would overwhelm all but the most forceful thesps, which clearly
does not include Wilkins. Somewhat akin to the visions of Guy Maddin, Nearing’s
black-and-white fantasia freely blends history with fiction, but it lacks the
postmodern playfulness of the Canadian auteur. Nearing also has a tendency
towards static tableaux, relying on voiceovers and intertitles to handle much
of the heavy lifting exposition and storytelling chores.
and producer Sanghoon Lee earn high marks for some absolutely arresting
cinematography, but the hollowness of their visuals sometimes tries our
patience. There are only so many interior monologues a film can offer up,
before risking charges of pretentiousness. Hogtown
goes well past that point.
Look, at least Nearing is trying for something.
He goes for broke and face-plants several times. Yet, some of the shortfalls could
have been softened during the editing process. Stylish to an extreme fault, Hogtown might interest patrons who
appreciate the idiosyncrasies of the micro-budget scene when it screens this
Friday through Tuesday (12/2-12/6), as part of this year’s ADIFF.
Labels: ADIFF '16, Chicago films