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"Catfish" is a difficult film to talk about without spoiling. The
sensationalist trailer gives a deliberately one-sided peek at a film
which is ultimately defined by its ending. Expectations should probably
be mediated, however"Catfish" isn't going to blow your mind. In fact,
the outcome of this social networking mystery is rather
straightforward, but no less brilliant for it. This is a film where
palpable suspense cedes way to an unconventional and thought- provoking
character study. Maybe the best introduction I can offer is that I
really liked it.
Arriving in a market practically gorged with tongue-in-cheek faux
documentaries, it's initially difficult to take "Catfish" at face
value. The story begins innocuously enough; Yaniv "Nev" Schulman has
just had his first picture published in the New York Times when a
package arrives at his office containing a painted replica of the
photo. The artist is a 12 year- old admirer, and her correspondence
begets a peculiar Facebook friendship. As Nev becomes involved with her
and her family, however, he begins to notice certain inconsistencies
with the perfect lives they lead online.
Much of the build-up feels stagey, and surely something is amiss,
because either filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are
considerably more talented directors than they portray themselves as,
or they are not being entirely forthcoming. The prevalence of the
camera during seemingly random moments that become key scenes seems
perhaps a bit too fortuitous, and the placement and framing of the
shots themselves seem too precisely calculated to have been captured on
the fly for this amateur guerrilla venture.
Yet it doesn't matter in the slightest. "Catfish" is about calling our
willingness to accept unsubstantiated information into question, and
thus encourages a skepticism and natural inquisitiveness towards
itself. The entire thing could be fabricated, and its creators have a
built-in ace in the hole. Falsifying a non-fiction film about false
identity could add a brilliant meta layer to the puzzle.
That being said, I don't believe that Joost and Schulman invented the
whole thing. Somebody get these guys a pen and paper if they did.
Rather, I tend to identify with the prevailing online rumor that
suggests the ending was shot first, with some or most of the first half
consisting of retroactive reenactments. But though I question the
authenticity of certain moments, whether or not they are genuine seems
beside the point"Catfish" is an effective film.
The foundation of that success lies in its solid technique. The gradual
rationing of information and the introduction and unraveling of the
central mystery is surprisingly well handled. The plot is obtuse and
intense when it needs to be, and the suspense is so potent that some
have even been let down that it never becomes an all-out thriller.
But suspense has the tendency to be undervalued in an of itself, and
the suspense in "Catfish" is an exceptionally executed, integral part
of the ride. The film, on the whole, works not only because of its
moments of seizing, visceral tension, but because of the greater
message it evokes. In hindsight, scenes like those exploited in the
trailer featuring Nev and his buddies arriving at a quiet farm in the
dead of night seem downright silly when compared to where they
eventually end up.
"Catfish" has been getting a ton of very positive press recently, and
it deserves much of the praise it's received. But backlash follows hype
like a shadow, and I have a feeling that those swayed into seeing the
film who might not have otherwise will enter with unrealistic
expectations. It is a fascinating, offbeat experiment, but it still
appeals to niche interests. The extent to which we let ourselves
believe that the internet is a direct extension of our preceptory
senses can be dangerousBut I'll say no more. I don't want to spoil
Tags for Catfish Full Movie
, Ariel Schulman
, Henry Joost
, Yaniv Schulman
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