Cashback: An arty film not pornography
The marketing geniuses behind Cashback have balls. Yes you read me right. For an arty British film to be released amongst titans that make up this year’s line-up, they must have balls of steel. Nevertheless, this film stands up well because it is so very different. Such a very different pace and yet just as rewarding. Probably even more so when compared to films such as Speed Racer.
To explain this film, you have to keep an open mind. The synopsis reads somewhat like a pornography film and yet it is so far removed from that genre it’s painful. Sean Biggerstaff (that can’t be his real name..surely. He’s just ripe for a childhood piss-taking) stars as an insomniac art student who takes up a night job at Sainsburys during the mourning period of a break-up with his girlfriend. During this job, through voiceover, we are told that each employee manages to get through the nights work in their own special way, from the two jokers in the group to the checkout girl who tapes up her watch because time moves slowly when you look at the clock constantly. It is a variation of this premise, that the story continues, with the main protagonist Ben (Biggerstaff) letting the audience know that he is able to pause a moment in time to really study (artfully) the female customers who enter the shop at night. By “study” I am of course referring to removing parts of their clothing or exposing their nakedness (or semi-nakedness). Half of you readers are going “Woo-hoo” to this and half of you are going “Oh God”. I can assure you that the “Woo-hoos” of you will be sorely disappointed because it is done very artistically and the “Oh Gods” will, if they continue the story, will be pleasantly surprised. Clearly the “stopping time” is merely an imagination technique of the artist to spot beauty in everything, and yet it teases you with the idea that he may just be able to achieve this feat. To reveal more of the story would need spoiler warnings, and would ruin too much.
The film is full of very full characters from Ben (the protagonist) all the way down to Brian “Kung-Fu” who has very little lines, but is able to raise a smile whenever on screen. The storyline seems to amble along aimlessly with no true destination and yet you are quite content to roll with it. Fundamentally it is a film about recovering from a painful breakup and discovering ones’ true self. Yes I know I sound like a pretentious twat, and if I hadn’t wanted to write a review, admittedly I wouldn’t have seen it. It would have flown past me without a moments’ thought. This is a notice for you then. If you want a film with a different pace than what is to come this year; that is gentle and amusing, with romantic interest, and an excellent use of music in its soundtrack, then do not ignore this film. It is a diamond in the rough. Only recently, I discovered that it was originally an Academy Award nomination short (in 2004) and was extended into a full motion picture (in 2006). The scenes were not re-shot and yet it is highly difficult to spot where the original short ended and the new one began. Credit must go then to the director and writer of the piece Sean Ellis.
Just because I liked the film however, does not mean it is free from flaws.
Firstly, the pace is not for everyone. Not everyone takes a break from this fast paced world. Many people require a continuous adrenaline rush in a film for it to be interesting (such as Crank). Despite enjoying these fast paced films, it is important to recognise the slower paced film as saying much more to the audience than what is actually said. Another good example of this is that of “The Station Agent”. Both of these films don’t seem to be going anywhere and neither of them are going at any recognisable pace known to human eyes. Yet, both of these films have a charm and entertainment value not seen in such films as the (ever popular) superhero genre.
The second problem of note is that of release. As said before, this film was finalised in 2006. The big question is why has it not come to Britain yet? Well, in fact it did get shown at the Glasgow film festival in 2007. In fact, this film has been round the world and back again before a release in the United Kingdom. This seems strange then, because this is a British film. I am confused. Why on earth does the rest of the world get to see this gem before us? In many countries, you are able to purchase this film on DVD. I can only assume that Sean Ellis hates Britain with a passion and decided to ignore us for a few years. This is a shame. Nevertheless, Cashback is here now and rejoice we must.
The third problem with this film is that of marketing. Take a look below at the poster for this film and tell me that it explains the film properly. Synopses around the web describe it as being about a perverted individual who gets off whilst looking at naked and semi-naked women in Sainsburys (including Keeley Hazell for all you “Woo-hoo” type people). These descriptions paint this film into something it is not. If you have a brick of gold, why paint it silver and claim it is tin? That makes no sense to me.
Despite these quite obvious problems though, the film is an enjoyable, light watch. I would recommend it for anyone’s DVD collection (if it ever gets released in this country) as I hope it to be part of mine in the near future. The rating for Cashback is 3.45 out of 10, due to the fact that this quite simply is not everyone’s’ cup of tea. Cashback is released in the Uk on the 9th May 2008.