Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sparrow Productions' The Perfect Picture - A review

Following the success of Life and Living it and Scorned, I was excited to hear about the premiere of Sparrow Productions' The Perfect Picture. I talked about the excitement of Shirley Frimpong-Manso drafting Jackie Appiah and Kwaku Sintim-Misa into the movie. I got the VCD recently and have watched it twice. The first time, I didn't know what to make of the movie, it's not your average Ghanaian or African movie for that matter. Watching it a second time, I appreciated the movie more, and I am in love with it. Sparrow Productions, I salute you! Keep it up. Looking for Agya Koo in the next feature film though, so let's make it happen. Here's a review.

The settings in the movie were great. It's clear the movie shows characters in a Ghanaian middle class; young affluent people navigating their love lives. The houses used were a little glamorous, is that how young executives in Ghana live these days? Which begs the question? Where are the young returnees and young workers in Accra living? Hostels? Trasaco valley? Company housing? Government housing? With all the real estate activity booming in Ghana, there should be some apartment complexes springing up for the youth who are moving out of their parents' cares into their own places. I like how the scene after the 'months later' portion was set in the Accra Mall. It was almost a progression in the movie and made great use of one of Accra's most recent developments. You could see the scenes of the bustling Accra as Sparrow tried to promote everyday Accra scenes. I liked those. I also noticed the different hairstyles the ladies spotted which I thought that was cool.

Different people have had issues with the movie's story. The story differentiates the movie from other Ghanaian ones. It's a bold script and the big challenge with Ghanaian movies these days is to make the end unpredictable. I believe the movie scored well there. The issues in the movie are not talked about in Ghanaian circles much and great movies are supposed to raise issues which is what the 'Perfect Picture' does. If we can be debating about the story and issues and not some technical glitches or bad lines then we know we have a great production. 3 different stories are told of 3 different women, somewhat independent but then related. The script was good in my opinion.

Like I talked about in Jerusalema, dialogue can 'make' a movie. Watching this one a second time made me appreciate the dialogue and lines more. I am not going to dedicate a whole post to the lines because they weren't as many. The talk of fairytales, the few profound lines, the 'exchanges', they were all good. "It says fairytales; (but) you and I, we live in the real world". The real world is not fairytales 'ampa'. "My mother said if something was good to be true, then yes, it was too good to be true. But think about it, wouldn't life be bothering without believing in a little lie?" I feel the Beyonce and Princess Tyra type productions try too hard to use big English which frankly doesn't happen all that often in Ghana. But when you have profound statements and simple witty conversations, it's more believable and interesting. I thought Sparrow missed a couple of chances to feature some more local language lines and appropriate subtitles. Hope to see more use of local lingua next time. The Ghanaian middle class does speak a lot of Pidgin and use a lot of lingo, it wouldn't hurt to use those routes more.

I appreciated the modernity of the movie. Since when did Ghanaians start doing this or that? Ghana has changed. Different things should not surprise us anymore. Including Ghanaian dating sites and whether they actually work or not. And yes, that lady should browse more. How about Dr. Andreson's suggestion? Are Ghanaians into that? Is it beyond us? No. Let's stop pretending. We may be a religious church-going people but that may not necessarily reflect what happens behind closed doors. Shirley knows it and was throwing light on some of these things. If the sex talk was overdone, note that the movie was rated 18 and up. A few references may have been unnecessary though. How many Ghanaians would have used the 'f' word in Dede's situation in the aftermath of her 'mistake'?

One of the most important parts of any African movie to me is the music. It's so important that I will have a separate post about the soundtrack. It's interesting how Sparrow's movies feature these dance scenes. I find myself timing them all the time. When it goes on for more than 3 minutes, it gets irritating. I know we do like to have a good time but Ghanaian movies are not avenues for music videos. The score was great, especially that Casino Royale bit when Akese saw Fela's car. Hilarious.

The movie has a story about different Ghanaian classes. How can a working middle-class Ghanaian woman like to listen to Amakye Dede? Maybe Kojo Antwi, but Amakye Dede? It's easy to see how a random air-conditioner repairer or mechanic would live off Amakye Dede tunes but a young rich Accra resident? If it teaches anything, it means that when it comes to do it, no matter how globalized or westernized we become, our culture always unites us. Another interesting thing about the movie was how all the rich guys had English first names and the 'poor' guy had a local name. Decolonization of the mind; Shirley, was this intentional? The ladies had local names though, something I can't wrap my mind around. Haha, the fella was called Fela. And the lawyer?

Also, why was Kwaku Sintim-Misa in only one scene? I wanted more KSM. Hope he returns in another production. He did play his role well though as did most of the other actors and actresses. I couldn't help but be more critical about Jackie Appiah in the movie. I'm used to seeing her in many movies which I don't rate highly and it was tough to look at her independently in this role. She didn't look much different, she seemed to have the same demeanor all the time. I love the way Chris Attoh says 'I love you'. Lydia Forson is great, she's gonna go places. I think she shined in her role, and showed the different emotions well. I am beginning to like Mensah-Doku as well, other than her hysterical laughing. Adjetey Annan is one of the best actors we have in Ghana today, Pusher can shine in any role. Kudos to him. Nana Kwame Osei Sarpong had a bigger role in this role after his one-scene-act in Scorned and I think he did good too. You can see the production crew took time to make sure the roles were played well and right. This was no one-month-let's-get-done-quickly-so-we-can-shoot-another-movie production.

In fact, 'The Perfect Picture' was well-written in my opinion. It caught me off guard the first time with all the 'bedmatics' but another viewing had me at ease and appreciative. I still rate 'Life and Living It' higher, maybe because it was the first from Sparrow. You know how it is difficult to outdo something that's already good. We'll see if it goes on to win any awards. The first two from Sparrow's stable did not sweep the accolades but maybe things will change with this one. The set, sound, and video quality was excellent as always and Ghanaians should be proud of this production. Excellence is not an act, it's a habit, as one wise man put it.
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