Man In The Chair

Man In The Chair


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Flash Madden is a former gaffer now whiling away his declining years in a retirement home. Scarred by personal loss and deeply frustrated by the state of the world around him, he has taken to drink, but one thing he still retains a passion for is film. It's in a cinema that he catches the attention of Cameron, a young student eager to get his help to win a short film competition. The two form an uneasy bond, Flash distrustful of Cameron's motives, but when he sees the way some of Flash's friends live, Cameron realises there are things he might do as a film-maker that matter much more than impressing his teachers.

The story of an idealistic youth learning about the world from an elderly mentor is an old one, but this film uses powerful characterisation and a fine eye for detail to turn it into something new. Deftly avoiding the usual cliches, it focuses instead on Flash and Cameron's emotional journeys and the discoveries they make together. Central to this is a powerhouse performance by Christopher Plummer which will keep you riveted to the screen throughout. His Flash is not a character who relies on mystery and assumed authority. He is full of sharp insights into the film industry and his emotional outbursts seem muted in the context of what Cameron finds out about the plight of old people in America. He is a complex character with wide ranging interests. It would be difficult for any actor to make an impression alongside this, but young Michael Angarano is engaging enough to make the viewer root for Cameron too, even when he is at his most awkward and confused.

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Ironically for a film about the making of a student film, Man In The Chair is shot using the kind of restless camerawork usually associated with productions of that sort. Blurred and overlapping images, deliberate overexposures and a constant sense of movement rush the story along, evoking both Cameron's youthful enthusiasm and Flash's bouts of drunken delirium. But for once this often intrusive technique works. The level of technical skill which has been brought to bear in creating this film is nothing short of astounding, and one cannot help but wonder if the fact that it's a story about the little guys - those crew members whose names only appear 'below the line' in the credits - encouraged its own crew to go the extra mile. As a result, it's a visual delight.

Man In The Chair may sound like something you've seen before but there's a wealth of fresh material here, and, sometimes, the old stories are the best.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2008
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Man In The Chair packshot
An elderly man rediscovers his taste for life when he helps a young film student.
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Director: Michael Schroeder

Writer: Michael Schroeder

Starring: Christopher Plummer, Michael Angarano, M. Emmet Walsh, Joshua Boyd, Mimi Kennedy, Mimi Kennedy, George Murdock, Mitch Pileggi

Year: 2007

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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