Movie Review: 2002 NYUFF: Resin
For all the non-film geeks out there, I need to briefly describe the tenets of Dogme 95.
Danish filmmakers Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark) and Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration) developed the Dogme 95 manifesto to promote the “reality” of film. A film that adheres to the Dogme 95 “Vow of Chastity” can’t hide behind special effects or camera tricks, music to enhance mood and the artificiality of genre. There’s even a “secretariat” so that filmmakers can submit their works and get accorded official Dogme 95 status.
The idea of Dogme is a good one — even though I think the idea of somebody giving out Dogme “certificates” a bit silly — and shooting in it’s style only makes Vladimir Gyorski’s Resin a more compelling film, even though I’m not quite sure if it completely lives up to its pretext.
Resin posits itself as a stinging indictment of California’s notorious “Three Strikes” law, a law that was created in the early nineties after a two-time felon kidnapped and brutally murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas. When drafted, the “Three Strikes” law was intended to keep violent offenders off the streets, but was so vaguely written that it’s mostly applied to non-violent criminals who are in jail for minor offenses.
Gyorski is mainly a documentary filmmaker, but for Resin he tells a fictional tale of a young pot dealer, Zeke (superbly played by David Alvarado), who gets caught in the California legal system. The most fascinating part of the film takes place towards the end when lawyers debate Zeke’s fate after his third arrest. Is he a “violent offender”? If one were to look at the facts of the case and police reports against Zeke as the prosecutor does, yes, it would appear that way. However, as we see earlier in the film, Zeke’s prior two arrests were totally unfair and misjudge him to be violent. These courtroom and judge’s chambers scenes are absolutely riveting and maddening.
However, I do have to admit that I have a serious bug up my ass about liberal/progressive stories and entertainment that “preaches to the converted.” Whenever I see liberal/progressive films like Resin, I try to evaluate them as if I were a conservative, which is probably an extremely unfair thing to do to a film and does prevent me from enjoying it on a surface level. But I just couldn’t help thinking throughout Resin that this film wouldn’t change the mind of a conservative that the “Three Strikes” law is a bad thing. Yes, Zeke gets a raw deal and is a sympathetic person, but he’s also a person who promotes to a lawless society and thus brings about his own fate. No conservative is going to lose any sleep that a person like Zeke is stuck behind bars for the rest of his life.
Despite that major reservation, I do wish movies like Resin got a wider audience to open up popular debate about these kinds of issues. It is a really well shot and acted film and I hope big things happen for David Alvarado. He reminded me of a laid back Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat, Shaft).