The Photographer (VHS, 2003)

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"Maggie Gyllenhaal Reporting in NYC Looking for 10 Lost, Cool-A*ss Photographs"

Jul 18, 2003 (Updated Jul 18, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A Visually-Breathtaking Film Capturing New York City.

Cons:Pacing's A Bit Slow & Script's a Little Spotty.

The Bottom Line: "The Photographer" (2000) is a visually breathtaking film into the journey of NYC with standout performances including one from Maggie Gyllenhaal. (3.5 out of 5).


“Little Joe never once gave it away. Everybody had to pay and pay. A hustle here and a hustle there, New York City is the place where they said, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”.

-Lou Reed “Walk On The Wild Side” from 1972 “Transformer”

Only the King of New York himself, Lou Reed can sing something great about the Big Apple. New York City, a cultural hotbed for all sorts of people to come together and play cool. Home of such great musical talents like Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Run-DMC & Jam Master Jay, the Ramones, Television, Sonic Youth, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, and Frank Sinatra as well as non-New Yorkers like David Bowie and the late John Lennon. It’s also the new home where new and younger acts like Nas, Jay-Z, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Strokes, and Interpol are shining. It’s the home of such landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, CBGB’s, the Village, Central Park, Harlem, and all sorts of cool place. In 2000, filmmaker Jeremy Stein captures the entrancing visuals of the city in a film about a photographer trying to find lost photos in the independent film “The Photographer”.

Written and directed by Stein, “The Photographer” is about a wunderkind photographer from New York City, with one day away to present a new art gallery, trying to find mysterious photos shot by another man. Along the way, he meets up with strange individuals who join him on this strange journey. While the script at times it a bit silly and hard to follow, the film’s visual take on New York City is breathtaking as Stein brings the audience to strange but incredible journey. Playing the photographer Max Martin is Reg Rogers who leads the cast in one of 2000’s more obscure indie films. With a strong supporting cast ranging from veterans like John Heard, Tom Noonan, and Anthony Michael Hall, to up-and-coming actors like Kristen Wilson, Rob Campbell, and current indie-star Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Photographer” is one film that is worth watching.

The film begins with Max Martin and his girlfriend Amy (Tina Holmes) on the presentation of Max’s first art gallery where he has become a success while his agent Greg (Anthony Michael Hall) and publicist Schuyler (Kirsten Wilson) make him a star. Now the film fast-forwards to one year later where Martin has broken up with Amy for Schuyler and he has a day away to present new photos for his next gallery. The one problem is that Max doesn’t have any new photos or shots that would compare to his first gallery. He walks out of his apartment to try to find something to shoot at the last minute but nothing comes up. Depressed, he goes to a bar and a mysterious stranger named Butler (Tom Noonan) appears where Max buys him a drink. Butler leaves all of a sudden and he lefts a folder, which were filled with ten beautiful black-and-white glossy photos.

Schuyler wants Max to use them but Max has a moral dilemma as he decides to meet up with his old mentor Marcello (John Heard). Marcello looks at the photos and tells him to use it but Max again isn’t sure if he’s doing the right thing until he sees a guy get mugged and Max tries to save him but gets beat up too. Max regains consciousness and helps the guy named Romeo (Rob Campbell) but Max suddenly realizes he lost the photos. He eventually finds a few of them as he and Romeo decides to go look for photos in a crazy night in New York City. Romeo is an aspiring writer as he and Max look for photos and Romeo suggests they get help from a mysterious woman named Violet (Mary Alice). Max buys a camera just in case he takes a photo as they search for Violet and the photos. They meet up with a young, wannabe fortuneteller named Mira (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is a compulsive neat freak who likes to brush her teeth and hands relentlessly. She decides to join along for the journey with her feather duster in tow as she just keeps giving out news reports about the lost photos with her duster as a microphone.

They find a few more as they run into another guy named Paul (Christopher Bauer) who is celebrating his last day as a bachelor. Paul finds another photo as the gang takes a break while Max keeps getting calls from Schuyler and Greg about the lost photos. The gang goes into a bar where Max sees Amy again and they go into strange, philosophical rants and Max eventually meets Violet. He also is forced to contend with his moral dilemma whether to return the photos to Butler or keep it for himself.

Stein’s debut feature is visually breathtaking, particularly it’s notable images of New York City including the buildings that once was, the World Trade Center with credit given to the film’s cinematographers, Vanja Cernjul and Joey Forsyte. Even the film’s black and white photographs are inspiring that includes shots of a couple dancing, people playing in a pool, another group of people watching a sun rise on a building roof, or lights in a park, that reminds me a lot of the Pogues video for their classic Christmas song “Fairytale In New York” with the late Kirsty MacColl. The script though at times is a bit spotty and the pacing of the film is a bit slow despite some great moments in the film.

Reg Roger’s performance as Max is the most compelling since the guy has moral issues while struggling with himself as an artist. He brings a tortured and often humorous tone to the film while making finer performances with the group of supporting actors. Veterans Tom Noonan, John Heard, and Anthony Michael Hall each bring out their mastery in their respective roles, particularly the underrated Hall who knows how to play a slimy individual who only cares about money. Kirsten Wilson’s role as Schuyler unfortunately is underwritten since we don’t really know much about her relationship with Max that well and she comes off as a b*tch throughout the film. Rob Campbell’s performance as the eccentric, loveable loser Romeo is well-played as he wants to write about anything but wishes he had something for his typewriter while Christopher Bauer’s role as wild Paul is filled with sympathy since this is a guy who just wants to get married and not deal with bachelorhood anymore.

Finally, there’s Maggie Gyllenhaal who delivers a standout role as the kooky Mira. With her dark, crumpled hair, strange attire including hooded bandana and unique facial expressions ranging from naiveté to joy, Gyllenhaal delivers a performance that is both hilarious and quirky as she wants to become a news broadcaster but isn’t sure if she’s good enough to be a fortuneteller. Even in the scenes where she does the news with her feather duster are easily the best scenes to watch. In comparison to her breakthrough performance in “Secretary” and notable standouts like “Cecil B. Demented” and “Donnie Darko”, this is easily an outstanding performance from Gyllenhaal that certainly makes up for more disappointing performances in “Riding in Cars with Boys” and "40 Days & 40 Nights”.

While “The Photographer” isn’t a great film, it’s still a very good, visually electrifying debut from Jeremy Stein headlined by stellar performances from Reg Rogers, John Heard, Rob Campbell, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Unfortunately, the film isn’t available on VHS or DVD and is only shown recently in one of the several channels on Cinemax and any places that show art-house films. Art-house film fans might enjoy the film for its visual and performances while the thousands (and thousands) of Gyllenhaalics will definitely enjoy Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance. It’s a strange film but one filled with great visuals of quirks that is New York City.

Maggie Gyllenhaal Film Reviews:

Secretary (2002):

http://www.epinions.com/content_101047570052

Donnie Darko (2001):

http://www.epinions.com/content_102579146372

Cecil B. Demented (2000):

http://www.epinions.com/content_102795546244

Adaptation (2002):

http://www.epinions.com/content_103371673220

40 Days & 40 Nights (2002):

http://www.epinions.com/content_104954957444

Riding in Cars with Boys (2001):

http://www.epinions.com/content_103609831044


Recommend this product? Yes


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