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Thirteen Conversations About One Thing   ...   movie reviews
thu 2005-jun-30 13:34:01 pdt   ...   permalink

Last Saturday we watched Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. It's one of these ensemble-cast films with a large-ish group of characters whose lives and stories happen to overlap and intersect in interesting ways. I tend to like those kinds of movies, and this one is no exception.

One interesting thing about it is the chronology. When it jumps between the different characters' stories, it never gives any indication of the relative temporal placement, but as the movie progresses and the different stories begin to intersect, you gradually piece together the "when" of these intersections, sometimes mentally shifting whole storylines forward or back to make them fit.

The result is that, as with Memento (though less crucially), I wish the DVD had a feature where you could watch the whole movie again, with the scenes all rearranged into chronological order. Unfortunately, assuming my understanding of DVD authoring is correct, such a feature would not be possible to implement under the current DVD spec, except by including on the disc all of the video data of the film twice (which would perhaps require a second disc or the other side of the disc or something, increasing manufacturing costs). There is a little more to it than this, but basically, a DVD is a finite state machine, where each state is a chunk of video, and state-transitions correspond to button presses on the remote, plus one special transition for which state to automatically transition to when the end of the chunk of video is reached. So in the main menu, that auto-transition just points back to the main menu (hence the repeating video and audio in many main menus); for each chapter of the movie, the auto-transition points to the next chapter, the "next" and "prev" buttons are transitions to the next and previous chapters, the "menu" button is a transition to the menu, and so on. No conditionals or auxiliary state information or anything. So in particular, you can't have the auto-transition go two different places depending on a setting that the user selected in the menu before starting the movie, or anything like that. Ah well.

Anyway, putting aside the interesting structure of the film, I guess I should talk about content. The "one thing" of the title is "happiness". And for a film ostensibly about happiness, you might say the film is kind of dark -- some might even go so far as to call it depressing. But I really enjoyed it, and not in the way that I would enjoy a depressing movie (well, a good one, anyway), more in the way that I would enjoy a light romantic comedy (well, a good one anyway). Maybe this is just another example of me being somehow simultaneously optimistic and cynical or something. I dunno, certain kinds of "dark" just make me happy. (Hm. Does that make me goth?)

So I guess I recommend it to other fans of dark. Or something. I mean, I recommend it in general. I'm just not sure whether you should believe my recommendation. I tend to forget the fact that "dark makes me happy" is not considered "normal"... Then again, maybe I'm portraying the film as much darker than it really is, just by harping on its being dark in the first place.

Well, there you go.

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