I like watching faces. I've made films of faces; minutes of faces. My next video project is about faces. In an interview from April 2011 at the Nashville Film Festival, director Laurel Nakadate says she made her film, The Wolf Knife, because:
"I fell in love with the faces of the two girls and I wrote the screenplay based around the lead actors...... The film really came about because I love their faces, I love this landscape, and I wanted to combine those things."That was all I needed, I wanted to see the film.
Laurel Nakadate is probably best known for her video projects, "I Want to be the One to Walk in the Sun" and "Oops" where she meets random, older, guys and goes back to their homes to videotape dance parties and stripteases with them. Scary shit.
She directed, produced, edited, etc. The Wolf Knife and as far as I knew, it was unavailable outside of film festivals, UNTIL Believer magazine included a DVD of the film in "The 2012 Film Issue." I didn't read the description I just watched the film.
A teenage girl named Chrissy lives with her mother and her mother's creepy boyfriend. Chrissy's mother becomes engaged to the creep. Chrissy and her friend, June, head out to find her father in Nashville. As they get close to their destination, Chrissy reveals that they are in fact going out to meet her old 3rd grade teacher, who she has been chatting with online. The film get intense from there. The two girls end up fighting with each other and their emotions are all over the place. It's a wonderful mess.
I think the film looks beautiful. The lingering shots are perfect and the lighting is just a touch outside of normal. Are the locations perfectly chosen or is Nakadate using some really colorful lighting choices? Probably the former. The film is shot on video, with a super low budget. The girls do have endlessly fascinating faces. Chrissy and June look young and fresh in the beginning of the film, but by the end, they truly look older, worn and tired, ready to go home. The acting is fine. Both girls are fearless. The 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Dews, is amazing. Hard to judge his performance, as the character is acting. He wants something.
The film felt a little too much like an adult male view of teenage girls. They talk a lot about sex; they break into a guy's yard and swim in his pool, when he catches them, they don't run away and instead stand way too close to him as he talks with them; they're nearly naked almost the entire film; there is a shower scene (which I mostly missed as one of my kids fell out of their bed while sleeping), the film just seems to be feeding into an older guy's fantasy of teenage girls every step of the way.
My wife and I just got a Roku and subscribed to Hulu Plus. We got Hulu for The Criterion Collection, but browsing the titles has made us laugh. Our joke is that there are Japanese films and films about fifteen year old girls. Teenage girls just rule the Criterion school.
I guess teenagers are mysterious. Adults don't understand them and they mostly don't understand themselves, mostly. They are chaotic and rash. Their emotions run in the extremes. They are easy to incorporate into film because they are whirpools of self-creating of drama.
I married into a family with a high level of female teenagery. There are a handful of aspects in The Wolf Knife that feel genuine to me. The girls are sweaty and just look stinky. Their emotions change shockingly fast. The girls ride a fantastic line of confidence and insecurity. I don't pretend to know, and don't want to generalize, what teenage girls are "REALLY" like, but these are things I have noticed in life, and while most films miss some of these aspects, Laurel Nakadate has used them to great effect in The Wolf knife.
I enjoyed The Wolf Knife. I probably won't watch it again, unless my wife reads this and wants to see it. I think one reason the film does not get written about as much as it should is because it is an uncomfortable film. As a male, it makes me feel creepy. It was creepy to watch, and I've debated with myself for a week to even write this review. To say I like this film, just feels like a creepy sentiment.
The film is slow, not Bela Tarr slow, but slower than you may be expecting. If you come from the Stranger Than Paradise school, it may be right up your alley.
The film has generally negative reviews but I disagree. I think the film is the opposite of boring and a fantastic blend of Chrissy and June's faces and Nashville. Laurel Nakadate gets a victory star in my book.
Here is the Vice Art Talk! video with Laurel Nakadate. Warning, it shows titties.