Movie: Black comedies are sometimes difficult to gauge in terms of how good they are because as often as not, you need to be in the right mood to enjoy them or they seem lame. Thankfully, I found one that appealed to me more than once, a little independent film released by Vanguard, Post Concussion.
The movie centered on a young business consultant, Matthew Kang (Daniel Yoon) who would go into a company with a team and essentially gut the place in order to save the company money. Such consultants are common these days, generally referred to as sharks or enablers of greedy corporate boards that live by their quarterly earnings rather than their long-term viability. As Daniel lives his fast paced life, he is hit by a car and suffers from a concussion that leaves him unable to work. He's fired by his employer, dumped by his material-girl girlfriend, and life seems to be going down the tubes for him. While some would claim the theme was one of karmic debts being repaid (after all, he screwed over many lives as a consultant), the point of the movie is how he rediscovers himself and changes his life around to become a better person.
The movie itself was a semi-autobiographical story based on Mr. Yoon's real life. He was hit by a car in 1995 and lived the story as set forth in the movie, with a few notable changes, and became a filmmaker because of it. Inside the DVD cover, Mr. Yoon pointed out that: "In 1995 I was struck by a car while crossing the street in Berkeley, California, USA. I sustained a fairly serious head injury, and as a result lost my girlfriend as well as my position as a management consultant to U.S. Fortune 1000 corporations. During the long recovery I taught myself from books the technical aspects of filmmaking, and also wrote several short and feature length screenplays, including "Post Concussion."
Even two years after the accident, my condition allowed me to film only one or two days a week, which made it very difficult to retain a crew for the entire shoot. Out of necessity I became the cinematographer and main camera operator, in addition to playing the lead role. For each shot my friend and co-producer Destry Miller (who played four roles in the film) and I would set up the camera, set the lights, set the microphone on a stand, rehearse, then start the DAT recorder, trigger the camera - and then one or both of us would step into frame. For an alarming number of shots in the film, no one was actually behind the camera. Similarly, the film was edited entirely on a home computer in my parents' house.
My accident taught me three important lessons: first, as Destry has said, don't get hit by a car. Second, it's important to appreciate being alive and particularly the people in our lives while they are still with us. And, third, one way in which to express this appreciation is through humor and irreverence. Hopefully this learning comes through in the film."
The movie could have turned into a real downer had the material been played somewhat straighter but the cast were all good at adding in just enough of themselves to make it all work on several levels. It was indeed witty, inventive, and twisted as others have stated in the past but it was something more than that too; it was a stunning indictment on corporate policy and the material world far too many of us have succumbed to in recent decades. In a time when the world seems poised for another prolonged terrorist war, it might make sense to rethink how we view ourselves as a country, much like Matthew does in the movie, lest we suffer the blind ambition leading us down a self destructive path as several of the characters were seem doing.
I'm going to rate this one as Recommended for those of you willing to look beyond the Hollywood blockbuster for something with a lot more vim and vigor, and at least a bit more intelligence. On the type of budget Yoon had to work with, I wouldn't expect much by way of technical expertise, especially for a first movie by a guy with brain damage, but the material itself seemed better than average nine times out of ten.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.77:1 ratio non-anamorphic widescreen color. I couldn't find a source telling me what the original aspect ratio was (and the official website never discussed the issue) but it looked like it might've been filmed in full frame and later cropped down. It was low budget and had all the grain and video noise you'd expect from such a movie, but for all the visual limitations the movie had, I think the message still shined through (overcoming the technical limitations most of the time).
Sound: The audio was presented in monaural Dolby Digital, as originally shot. It was spotty in terms of quality, having a number of disparities between the vocals and music, and my receiver indicated it was receiving a 5.1 signal but there didn't appear to be any separation between the channels (that had limited dynamic range). It was obviously a low budget soundtrack but that added to the appeal of the movie.
Extras: The best extra for me was the audio commentary by Daniel Yoon (director/star/etc), Destry Miller, and several of the cast. Each contributed portions separate of the others, which were then tied in on the audio track. I liked how each had many interesting comments about the movie and the making of the movie so check it out if you get the movie. The other extras were also pretty good; a Behind the Scenes series of interviews about the making of the movie and even a humorous send up of the making of feature called, The Making of the Making of…, which had the cast act like the original making of movie was all lies. Lastly, there were a few minutes of blooper footage that really didn't add a lot of entertainment value compared to the other extras but it wasn't bad either.
Final Thoughts: The technical issues aside for a moment, the story and characterizations were all pretty well thought out, mainly because Yoon lived the story and I can only hope that while his technical expertise grows with future releases, he doesn't lose any of the angst he puts into Post Concussion.