Friday, January 21, 2011


This reviewers particular conundrum; To try and encourage readers to go and see a wonderful film without revealing too many details about said wonderful film without removing the sense of surprise that made the film wonderful in the first place.  The tagline for this film is "Don't let anyone tell you what it is" which is going to limit this review somewhat.  I could maybe discuss how nice the poster is, with a rather pleasing combination of red and black.  Perhaps how I could remark how it reminded me of the film "Capturing the Friedmans" or, oddly enough (and I'm not sure I can even justify this in my own head) of the time when Louis Theroux was staying with the Hamiltons in the middle of their legal shenanigans.  What I can tell you is that it was the talk of the Sundance festival upon its release last year.

The fairest approach might be to tell what the film SEEMS to be be about.  In its very simplest form, It's a documentary of the story of an unusual and unlikely online friendship between a 20 something photographer living in New York (Yaniv Schulman) and an 8 year old prodigy with a particular talent for painting.

To be brutally honest, the tagline for this film is slightly unfair.  There isn't a huge twist that'll keep you guessing throughout the film - It's not an M. Night Shymalan film after all.  Which, given his previous track record comes as a great relief, because it would be a pile of shit.  And no doubt star M. Night Shymalan.  To know what happens in Catfish wouldn't be the end of the world - unless you have the deductive skills of halibut you'll have figured it out pretty quickly - but it would make the journey somewhat less interesting. 

I personally found this film enthralling and incredibly moving.  I'd strongly recommend that you approach it in the same way that I did; don't look for online reviews of it because there will undoubtedly be poorly signposted spoilers and just take somebodies advice that you should watch it because it's a damn fine film.  It's honestly been dwelling heavily on my mind since I saw it.  It won't change your life but for the 90 or so minutes it'll take you to watch it you'll be going on a journey.  And I honestly can't make that sound less pretentious no matter how I try.  And I've tried.

I found one particular quote (towards the end of the film) incredibly memorable, as it's a profound way to sum up this movie, and as good a way to end this review as any.

"They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They'd keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank god for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn't have somebody nipping at our fin."

So, there we have it.  In the true sense of that quote, the film itself is a Catfish amongst films.  One of the first non reviews on this site (unless you count Terminator: Salvation in this as in the fact it's a film I wish I'd never seen so couldn't review in the first place).  If you do watch it, let me know what you thought.

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