Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Friday, August 3, 2007


       Used to be, the romance, or romantic comedy, was sumthin’ my mother would call “a wimmens' pixcha'” -- a narrative taken from and detailing the feminine perspective on courtship and ardor -- and I think that until the last couple of decades, that was very much the case. More recently, -- starting, perhaps, with Woody Allen’s Annie Hall -- we’ve begun to see a surfeit of movies that approach romance from the male point-of-view; if you doubt this claim, try to think of any movies from the thirties, forties or fifties that are anything like Rushmore or even The Forty-Year-Old Virgin; two contemporary -- and very male centered -- romantic comedies. Not too many come to mind (at least, not to mine). On the other hand, there are all too many examples of films from that period that resemble such current “womens' pictures” as No Reservations or Down With Love -- although thankfully, most of the former were much better crafted than the latter. At any rate, chalk another one up on this year’s list of male-centric romances (a list that already includes Knocked Up and Everything’s Gone Green); Cashback, an engaging addition to the 2007 inventory.

       The movie opens with art-student Ben’s break-up with his first serious girlfriend, Suzy. Shaken by the experience (and very much desirous of getting back together with her), Ben finds himself unable -- “immune”, in fact, to sleep -- and spends the ensuing days in a kind of somnambulistic daze. Deciding that as long as he’s going to be awake 24/7, he might as well make some money off of it, Ben takes to working the night shift at a local supermarket. This allows him to give his employer his spare -- and unwanted -- extra eight hours of wakefulness, for which he will receive “cashback”. Ben notices that his fellow employees all have unique ways of making the time pass during their long and tedious shifts -- some strenuously avoid looking at clocks; others race scooters down the lonely aisles -- but Ben’s method for enduring his “trade of time” is unique; he makes the time pass more quickly by stopping it; freezing time -- and all those around him -- in a single moment that he can examine at his leisure; doing still-lifes' of shoppers who catch his fancy, and sometimes even the occasional sketch of check-out girl Sharon, who just might be a kindred spirit...

       Cashback is the first feature by writer/director Sean Ellis, who based it on his 2004 short of the same name -- and it’s as accomplished a cinematic debut as I’ve seen of late. While there might be a couple of added scenes that merely “pad out” the film, most of the expansion of the movie’s story-line comes from the well thought-out development of characters and plotlines only hinted at in the earlier, much abbreviated version. If I didn’t know Cashback was based on a short film, I never would’ve guessed it -- that’s a compliment, by the way. Alot of the humor in the film comes from Ben’s interactions with his co-workers at the supermarket -- in many ways they’re the typical bunch of zanies you’d find in any twenty-something comedy. But what makes Cashback different -- and worthwhile -- is the character of Ben himself: he’s quiet and reserved, and displays a keen sense of humor in his observations of those around him. Being essentially an introvert, Ben’s thoughts and musings are largely shared with just us, the audience. It’s difficult to make a film about a character who lives largely in his own head -- film’s a visual medium, and characters who are more “in your face” tend to come across more readily -- but to Ellis’s credit, Ben is very much the amiable center of the movie.

       Cashback is receiving a limited theatrical release as of this writing -- it may have already come and gone in your area. But fortunately, it’s also available for rent or purchase on DVD, in a disc that includes both the feature-length and short version of the film. Most definitely worth stopping a moment, to take a look at.

Some links:

Cashback official website

Magnolia Pictures (the U.S. distributer of the film) website.

Roger Ebert’s take on Cashback

Next post -- 08/10/07


Rich said...

Yikes! Never even HEARD of this movie! Thanks Grigorss -- Gonna see this just on your say so. (Unless I get the Charlie Chan #3 box...that'll set me back a few days.)

I eagerly await your review of Ingmar Bergman's most important work, currently availabe at -- some wacky soap commercials he made in the 1950's. 3-D! Who knew???

jonderneathica said...

I finally saw Cashback. I wish you could have been there when it arrived in the mail.

Wife: What's this one about?
Me: (Grigorss) recommended it.
Wife: Uh-oh.

I was surprised by how conventional the story was -- boy meets girl, loses girl, gets girl back (and a new career to boot!)

I honestly used to believe that I was the only one who fantasized about stopping time and removing women's clothing, but that was until I read The Fermata by Nicholson Baker.