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Rating History

Cashback
Cashback (2007)
3 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

In his semi-autobiopic debut feature film Cashback (2006), writer and director Sean Ellis offers us an exclusive look inside a young artist's mind - his mind. His protagonist, Ben Willis (nicely played by Sean Biggerstaff), is an art student who decides to work the night shift at a local supermarket to overcome a recent breakup and an ensuing incurable insomnia. His lack of sleep develops an artistic habit of freezing time and seeing into the beauty of mundane surroundings that usually go unnoticed.

A very promising premise that loses its rigor to narcissistic self-immersion.

It is true that art is inherently narcissistic; it is all about the artist's vision of the world. The artist allows us to see things differently by shunning the familiar and comfortable collective outlook and assuming an individual perspective. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, it is takes two to tango, and the artistic process, even though innately egoistic, is not self-reflective. The audience is always an integral part.

Much of the film's freshness and originality have been obscured by Ellis's aimless meandering through his vision as an artist. It is definitely wonderful that he shares his exceptional vision with us, but he ignores the refinement necessary for viewers' reception. The end result is a picture that lacks focus and purpose, and borders on infantile disarray. Although it clearly sets itself within the boundaries of metafiction, the tone comes off as distant and lofty (pretty much like Biggerstaff's face throughout the movie) that the comic and amorous elements have become irrevocably dissonant.

I love films that leave me with mixed feelings. However, Cashback has left me with mixed feelings I cannot relate to or even attempt to understand. I do not think of myself as an artist but I cherish imagination more than words can say, and I know that confusion (the state of being confused and confusing) is one price to pay for this wonderful gift. It is the artist's choice though to either reach out or further distance him/herself. I mentioned earlier that the film is metafictional in the sense that Ellis's artistic choices in delivering the film to us is echoed by Willis's choices in trying to impart his art on the world around him. Both handle the outside world and its inhabitants as inferior subjects detached from the self to the extent that the humanity of the connection is reduced to a microscopic size; the human element in Ellis's picture is basically as emotionally aloof as the love relationship between Ben and Sharon.

The artist's eyes notice things that we cannot see, and attract our attention to them. Ellis and Willis have got only half of their job done.

Persepolis
Persepolis (2007)
4 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

My only problem with the film is that doesn't offer anything new to the graphic novel, not even a fresh perspective.