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Tower | TIFF 2012 Review

Tour d’ivoire: Radwanski’s Debut a Character Study Of Discontent and Disconnection

Kazik Radwanski Tower Poster TIFF 2012Canadian filmmaker Kazik Radwanski has created a conflicted character study with Tower, a film about a socially challenged man that seems to be as disconnected from his own life as the film is from a linear narrative. Employing a captive intimacy by having the entire film shot in close-up and with handheld cameras, our discomfort with the film is only further compounded by our extreme proximity with our awkward protagonist, which never abates. As aggravatingly vague as it is interestingly observant, Radwanski has created a feature perhaps not wholly likeable, but, definitely unpredictable.

Derek (Derek Bogart) is a prematurely balding, confidently inelegant thirty-four year old living in his parents’ basement. He’s working at an agonizingly slow pace on an animation idea he has for a cartoon (reminding his mother of Shrek) which depressingly involves his innocent creature having its identity slowly stolen by evil spheres that eventually dump its body in a lake. After months of work, he has mere seconds of footage. When his parents insist on having Derek show off his painstaking work to some house-guests, Derek employ’s a phrase we hear him repeat more than once, “I wouldn’t want you to think I’m a weirdo or anything…” But everyone thinks Derek’s kind of a weirdo anyway. He seeks the attention of the opposite sex at dance clubs, creepily approaching women on the dance floor and taking their pictures on his cell phone. The film begins with his unique cruising technique, but when abandoned by his targets, a very drunk Derek wakes up at home with a nasty gash on his nose, a wound continually referenced throughout the film. Working part time construction for his uncle, Derek seems to be drifting through life. When Derek begins an awkward relationship with an older woman he hooks up with, Nicole (Nicole Fairbairn), a misleading courtship transpires, which inevitably leads Derek to one of his most embarrassing moments when’s he has to break up with the oblivious woman. Meanwhile, Derek has taken it upon himself to do something about the raccoons tearing up the garbage outside of his parents’ home, unruly and dangerous creatures when cornered that seem to fascinate him.

Even with a slight running time of just under eighty minutes, it’s difficult to spend so much time with Derek, and a lot of this has to do with the very close visual proximity we have with him (not to mention the other characters in the frame). It’s not often we can even see two complete heads at one time. But Derek seems hopelessly uncaring and nonchalant about others around him and life in general. His parents come across as nagging figures (not even granted names or identifying characteristics), constantly trying to reinforce the fact that they want to help their son make a good life for himself, although he doesn’t seem to want to do anything to help himself. Bogart, in his first lead role, us quite at home, giving us an eerie and realistic portrayal of an odd man. Certainly, there are interesting qualities about Tower, and the late introduction of the intriguing raccoon motif could have been used to better effect, but when we leave Derek behind, his impression isn’t very remarkable.

Vaguely uncomfortable, including a very well done breakup scene with Nicole, Tower, which apparently was also largely improvised, the film doesn’t feel as sharply realized as it could have been. Instead, we end up feeling far more removed from Derek than we should. And then again, maybe that’s the point as we watch him from our ivory towers.

Reviewed on September 11 at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival – DISCOVERY Programme.
78 Min

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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