Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Small Town Murder Songs: Grade B


Small Town Murder Songs (2010)

Peter Stormare, Martha Plimpton, Stephen Eric McIntyre; Writer-Director Ed Gass-Donnelly. (Some archaic Mennonite German translated in subtitles).

In a small Mennonite town in Ontario, Canada, Walter (Stormare) is chief of police. He is old, slow-moving, slow-talking, but we get the sense he is highly experienced. A dead, naked woman is found by the lake and circumstances point to lowlife Eric (McIntyre), who lives with the chief’s ex-love-interest, Sam (Plimpton).

In brief flashbacks we get the idea that they broke up because the chief had committed some extremely violent act or acts in the past. We don’t know what they were or what the context was, but he has rejoined the church and believes his temper is now under control. But when it seems like Sam is lying to him, he goes right up to the brink of violence again. So the larger story is about the ability and the determination to change one’s character.

This Canadian film is very well acted and directed. The script is original and the cinematography stands out for its thoughtfulness. The only sour note is the dreadful sound track which I gather is authentic Mennonite church music. To my ear it was quite unpleasant, and not because it was unfamiliar. I like the unfamiliar. Rather, it sounded simplistic, droning, arrhythmic, repetitive, narrow in range and tone, and incomprehensible (in German). It did not add “atmosphere” as the Okie singing did, for example, in Brother Where Art Thou. But I guess that’s a matter of taste. Othewise, the film is well-constructed and executed, worth watching.

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