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There's a New Cut of "People," and...
Let's take a new peek at a new version of a local flick.
“The Director is dead!” - a trauma surgeon, People
I love returning to previously reviewed movies - sincerely, I do. When oh so many years have passed, and a familiar film pops up in my periphery once more - a film that I scored with a scour - I recall how I felt and, if maybe, my opinion on it would be different now.
People was a 1.5/5 when I rated it for Film Threat some five years ago. A New Orleans area-made movie, People at the time annoyed me with what I felt was a self-righteous smugness, with “no filter or central goal to say the most.” Folks, I don’t believe I was the harshest on this local film (I save that energy for Human Centipede: Final Sequence and Charlie Sheen’s 9/11), but looking back I was for sure harsher on it than needed.
Director Shane McGoey was kind enough to let me watch a new version of People, called The Magna Moralia Edition (up in full on Youtube), and, I’m glad to report… it was alright. This isn’t a Roger Ebert / Vincent Gallo review/re-review of The Brown Bunny scenario, but I did in fact get a fairer kick out of McGoey’s work this time around.
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Was it the changes made in its new cut? I think it was a fresh mindset and long gap between viewing that did the trick. People is established through a handful of vignettes or mini-stories, where troubled characters ranging from a young woman in a late-night psychiatrist rendezvous to a filmmaker losing his patience over a phone call, all eventually converge in an Emergency Room - where solace and care are the least of what they’ll find together. Each story can best be boiled down to being extended arguments and debates about human behavior mostly, smothered in the sinew of politics, current events, and general turmoil. These stories are showcases for actors and cinematographers, floating in and around an atmosphere of melodramatic theatricality.
Indeed, things go over the top and get a little trite at times. Sure, sometimes scenes drag a bit. However, these “faults” are pretty minuscule when one is invested in each vignette, and my favorite one, Control - centered on four men having a bro boxing watch party at home - garnered the most investment. Beers, drugs, etc. Two of the men bicker about wars and corporations, slowly but surely flailing towards a fight of their own. The camera cuts back and forth between them, snapping along with their growing intensity, all the while flashing us with a silent and stoic man with a goatee, just trying to watch the TV. The juxtaposition that exists here made me chuckle and do a spit take or two.
Pretty perfectly performed, purposely precise. Simple in setting, campy and electrified in action, and captured with nothing to lose.
People: The Magna Moralia Edition is like Clue and Paul Haggis’s Crash, if they collided with one another during a college production of Lysistrata. Is there still some smugness from when I last watched it? A little, but it’s not without reason. And that reason being? Misery loves company, and company is plentiful. People is a film about the miserable as observed through a Snapchat filter that only the director can see.
But, “the director is dead.”
Death ain’t the end, and you can always make a return - no matter how late. 3/5