Night Labor is an intimate experience of what the film critic J. Hoberman calls situation documentary, a blending of minimally structured narratives with documentary moments and long takes ... See full summary »
I'll admit straight off I did not see all, or even most, of this film. I was driven out of the theater at a festival showing after about half an hour. I would have stayed for what looked like a perfectly nice documentary about donkeys at a rescue center if I could have somehow turned the sound off. Why? This movie has the most insufferably "poetical" voice-over narration imaginable, most of it simply, pretentiously describing what we are already looking at on screen. It's like observing a field of flowers, only having someone insistently murmur in your ear "Oh! The flamboyant florescence of flora in the field! How they shimmer and sway! What a precocity of poppies!" Etc.
You think I'm exaggerating? Wait till you see the film. It's like Bad Poetry Night has somehow assumed control of The Nature Channel by armed force. The fact that Willem Dafoe is the person reading this tripe does improve it--his voice sort of tamps down the cheese factor to a degree-- without being able to redeem it. (On the other hand, I don't see any writing credit, so it's just possible that Dafoe actually wrote the dreck he recites.)
I don't know what they were thinking. It's rare that you see a movie so completely torpedo'd by one obviously terrible creative choice. This narration is this movie's equivalent to Sofia Coppola in "Godfather III"--the indulgence so wrong-headed it sinks the entire enterprise. Without that element, "Do Donkeys Act?" might be a 6, 7 or 8 for all I know. With it, I'm giving it a 4 just because it's well-shot, well-intentioned, and has lots of appealing shots of donkeys--but in experiential terms that verbal diarrhea makes it more like a 2 or 3, something you can barely tolerate. In fact, I couldn't tolerate it.
Maybe they'll figure out their mistake and re-work the soundtrack before this travels any further. I sure hope so.
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