Greg (Ryan Scott Self) lost his fiancée when he couldn’t match her religious faith. Now he’s written a script based on the relationship, and is going to direct the movie. But the path of indie filmmaking is paved with thorns, as he is plagued by demands from the backers for inappropriate casting, more sex, edgier language, and so on. His ex isn’t too happy about the movie being made in the first place, too.
The film takes the form of a mockumentary. We are supposedly watching the behind-the-scenes doc shot by a camera crew following Greg around as he struggles to get his vision up on the screen. There doesn’t seem to have been a compelling need to adopt this fiction in this case, and the stylistic attempts at realism wind up underlining the improbabilities of the story. An indie film director worrying about landing a PG-13 rating? A scene with a hack script doctor is amusing, but would make more sense if the unfortunate Greg were working on a mainstream release. Furthermore, the plot is too meandering and pedestrian. That the movie industry is a difficult place is hardly a revelation, and so Cinema Salvation is ultimate a very nice, but also rather anodyne, film. Still, Self is a pleasant screen presence, one who engages the audience’s sympathy. We root for him, even if the material fails fully to engage us.
The look is shot on video, so eye candy is not the order of the day. But as consciously raw as the film looks (staying true to its artistic goal), the image is still very crisp, with only a big of aliasing visible in some scenes. Colours are very naturalistic, and the aesthetic as a whole is very low-key, almost gritty, while still being easy on the eyes. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Even more low-key here, bordering on the lo-fi. The sound is clear, and the dialogue is undistorted, but sound design is minimal. This is not, of course, a film that requires some sort of 5.1 extravaganza (that would, in fact, be out of place in this case), but this track might as well be mono. There are no surround elements whatever, even when music is playing.
All of the features, other than the trailers, have something in common. Let’s list them first:
Interviews with the “cast”: (7:22)
Greg’s Home Video: (13:35)
Trailers for Cinema Salvation and Paradise Hills.
What the extras have in common is that they continue the fiction that this is a real documentary. Even the outtakes are staged and performed in character, and the other bits are essentially extended scenes. So anyone wanting to learn something about the actual making of the film is going to be disappointed.
The film has a generous spirit, but it needs a bit more than that. I’m not sure that the mockumentary approach is doing it any favours, too.