Sunday, May 9, 2010


"Babies" is baffling, trivially edited film by Thomas Balmes that has some sections that fall below the interest level of paint drying. This is not a slow film. It moves way too fast. It lingers on one of the babies for a period of under 15 seconds and switches to another very fast. Often the two actions are non sequiters. I cannot stress how tedious this makes the footage onscreen. By the end of the film, we barely know more about these tikes than we did at the beginning (especially about the Japanese baby Mari).

Why did Balmes let this happen? He's set up an interesting experiment here, of watching childhood across cultures. According to a People magazine article, 18 months was how long the production was. The post-production has ruined everything. What could have been personal and engaging if split into four, 20-minute sections is spliced together crudely with very little structural coherence. And to think: the editors here were Craig McKay ("Sin Nombre," "The Silence of the Lambs") and Reynald Bertrand ("OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies"), professionals.

Many people have enjoyed this film. People in my audience laughed at nearly everything. For some reason, this made it a very bizarre experience at the movies for me. If I wanted to really be digging hard I could knock the film as others did for a strange sort of "voyeurism", but that's sort of beside the point.

The film has been compared to that of the "home video" ilk, and this is definitely warranted. That is, if said home videos were put together as terribly as possible. Only in one place (which was the "walking montage" that Owen Gleiberman mentioned) is there actually any sort of effort put into making a bridge between the babies, and only in one other place (a sort of Snorricam-lite shot of a baby being rocked by his mother's activity) do you really have (as others said) "innovative filmmaking" and (as my friend said) insight into "being a baby."

But let's put it this way: this film was, for me, a total waste of my time. This could have definitely been avoided, but it wasn't. This film felt like the longest film under 80 minutes in a while. (I actually found time to check my watch.) The fact that I had bought tickets for "No One Knows About Persian Cats" and (though happily) bowed out at about the last minute didn't help how I felt. As others have said, "this is basically a film trying to exploit the cuteness of different humans and animals," and although a little of it washed onto me, I couldn't help feel a little awkward toward people around me and also a little depressed at how roughly an hour and twenty minutes (as my friend said, "Thank god it was that short") had been spent. D


Jozeph Dukö said...

oh my god, you could not be more right, and your Idea about making it 4 20 minute "baby cam productions" would have made (what I've heard about) the movie so much better, and I would probably rent it in a heart bead. Finally we agree

Adelaide Dupont said...


I was not sure about wanting to see this film.

It would more usually be on TV with its subject and content material.

Or being out there in real life without a camera, appreciating the babies and animals around us, recognising that they grow old and die like us. (in the case of the animals, so much faster).