Jul 23, 2021

Hogtown (Daniel Nearing, 2014)

“Why is it, when we look in the mirror, we wait for that moment when we forgive ourselves?”

Set against the backdrop of the Chicago Race Riots of 1919, and inspired by the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Small (whose last name is changed to Greenaway, with his chain of theaters relocated from Toronto to Chicago), Hogtown is a fascinating portrait of both the aforementioned city and several of its denizens – fictitious or based on real people, such as Ernest Hemingway and Sherwood Anderson (portrayed respectively by Alexander Sharon and Marco Garcia). A boldly anachronistic / ‘period-less’ drama revolves around an investigation of the missing millionaire case carried out by detective DeAndre Son Carter (a stoic performance from Herman Wilkins) whose ‘black soul consigned to melancholy nurtured in every isolated moment’ is shared by the film’s dense, brooding atmosphere.

Part hardened neo-noir and part haunting tone poem, the heavily fragmented (and somewhat convoluted) story gives the impression of an unconventional adaptation of a graphic novel in which the characters often monologize in third person. The same goes for the highly expressive, hyper-stylized visuals that, despite the obviously modest budget, give Sin City a good run for its money. Assisted by cinematographer Sanghoon Lee, writer/director Daniel Nearing comes up with a barrage of imposing Dutch angles and absorbing close-ups, all dipped in tar-black shadows, fully embracing cinematic artifice, as well as the sculptural qualities of naked human body. Through the additional use of stock-photo montages, on-screen text, color shots, and even collage at one point, he strives to create this timeless, dream- and mosaic-like version of Chicago. Complementing his beautifully framed imagery is Paul Bhasin’s symphonic score that lends the film a touch of classic, and a poignant soul/gospel song performed by Minister Raymond Dunlap who evokes a strong emotion singing nothing but ‘kill me now, remember this’...

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