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I Play With The Phrase Each Other – Review

September 24, 2013

FestivalsFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


Technological advancements throughout the years have allowed filmmakers to develop and create spectacular and ground breaking art. One only has to look back at the French New Wave to grasp the degree of changes that it brought to cinema. Over the last ten years mobile communications have seen revolutionary changes that have taken the world into the smartphone era, consequently allowing filmmakers with limited resources and budgets to explore cinema as an artistic mean through their mobile phone cameras. Jay Alvarez is one such director who has utilised cheap alternative modes of capturing cinematic beauty and challenging the construct of expensive and outmoded celluloid. Whilst it is early days for mobile phone captured cinema, directors like Alvarez are certainly changing the horizon of this newly found cinema.

This debutant filmmaker delivers an evocative and meticulously well-shot feature film. I Play With The Phrase Each Other is shot entirely using an iPhone. It is methodical, yet stylistic and with its heavy use of beguiling dialogue it is able to captivate and inspire its audience to look at cinema and mobile phones with a reviewed sense of appreciation.

The film opens with Sean (Jay Alvarez) in a dark room conversing with Jake (Will Hand) about the sheer beauty of city life and how great it would be if he would move. The poetic and rhythmic language Sean uses indeed convinces us as an audience that we too belong with him in the city which sounds as romantic as Paris but as harsh as Harlem slums. Alvarez mimics the classic neo-noir cinematography with harsh lighting and strong black and white tones, which work well in capturing the essence and mood of the film.

Jake finds himself swimming in a continuum of thoughts that can only be anchored by Zane (Alexander Fraser), a sexually frustrated and somewhat perverted lonesome friend. The film skilfully brings outside characters to the forefront through conversation, which is great, however with little backstory being developed it begins to cause fragmentation to the linear narrative, making it difficult for one to follow. The film moves at a steady pace and requires one to listen closely to the conversations in order grasp the magnitude of action that is going on. Those who stay with Alvarez are rewarded notably when we learn of how Sean swindles inexperienced, innocent buyers of stolen goods. Sean’s poverty-ridden struggle and Jake’s lack of sensibility in a world so far from what was promised can be seen as a metaphorical reflection of filmmakers who endure such grief In the name of art.

Alvarez is clearly talented for not only did he write this little gem but also acted in the film and did it so effortlessly and with real conviction. It is however unfortunate that the other characters were not as well developed and had nothing tangible about them to be remembered or for that matter care about. The camera work is seamless and depth of field is remarkable and a pleasant surprise given it’s filmed on an iPhone. The fictionalised conversations are indulgent, poetic and sophisticatedly blasé for Alvarez, but for the viewer they are like the works of Woody Allen. The film is a must watch but one has to be patient. Much like the works of Kiarostami it takes its time to develop and its simplicity opens windows for broader thoughts.

I Play With The Phrase Each Other is playing at this year’s Raindance Film Festival.

Book tickets here: http://tiny.cc/j7ow3w

Rehan Yasin