|'Kaye's form matches Barthes' story; seeking self-isolation, Barthes jumps from one detached personal issue to another, seeking solace in variety and gentle anonymous kindnesses.'|
In a July 2012 interview with The Guardian, Tony Kaye confirmed what the world already knew; he's a bit eccentric but wow, he can also really show that he knows his stuff. Speaking with a self-effacing honesty that, as detailed in Andrew Pulver's piece, hasn't always been his strong point, Kaye noted that he isn't 'a visual pyrotechnic, though I'm not a visual slouch; what I do is get performances'. Why then does Kaye insist on shooting his own films?
That Kaye has a cinematographer credit on Detachment proves that, if less so than previously, he continues to be his career's own worst enemy. Detachment is a good film, a tightly-focused Drama and character study that would make a great companion piece to school documentary Searching For Superman, and which has a lot of inflammatory things to say about teachers and the US education system in general. But it looks awful.
Changing between editing grain and digital clarity, black and white and colour, steady-cam and hand-held, Kaye loads the frame with a constant raft of changes and a predilection for close-ups and bright colours where this was crying out for long shots and distressed shades. If Kaye is serious about now having the things he 'could have had if I'd contained my passion better', then he needs to hire a cinematographer that isn't Tony Kaye.
You get the impression that, if he did, this is a film-maker who still has multiple stellar films within him. Detachment has flaws, such as an ensemble cast that barely get a look in, but overall it is a moving, original look at the stresses of life and how the microcosm of school brings them to the fore. As Henry Barthes (a top-form Adrien Brody) struggles to contain his own anger issues, he faces down multiple threatening pupils and a governing body of teachers weighed down by apathy. Kaye's form matches Barthes' story; seeking self-isolation, Barthes jumps from one detached personal issue to another, seeking solace in variety and gentle anonymous kindnesses.
If evidence is required for just how good Kaye can be, and how good the performances he gets are, look no further than Lucy Liu, one of Detachment's great ensemble, who actually gets two scenes in which to shine. Liu's charismatic breakdown and near-tragic turn towards James Caan's Mr. Seaboldt is her career best and it's arguably not the only one here, in a film driven by Carl Lund's standout début script but anchored by the harnessed power of a man who could be a master.
Detachment is out on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 28th January 2013.