Directed by #AndrewPochan
Written by #SueLange
Short Film Review by Jack Bottomley
As movies continue to progress with what they can accomplish and the stories they can tell, originality can be hard to come by. Even bold ideas or fresh ideas have visible influences or their filmmakers have been encouraged by the work of another. A truly original idea is not an easy thing to achieve but I can safely say that director #AndrewPochan’s (co-directed by writer #SueLange) Traffic Opera is startlingly original and infectiously enjoyable.
Make no mistake, its title is no metaphor, it is very much literal, an opera amidst traffic, and it’s as fun as it sounds. As various drivers of differing backgrounds become embroiled in a traffic delaying incident that soon begins to escalate, they are forced to come together despite their differences.
Traffic Opera is a real ensemble effort, the emphasis being on effort! Ambitiously staged and extremely enjoyable, with an infectious energy that carries the film through any flaws because you are just so impressed it all came together! Behind this simple but daringly delivered short, the real meat comes in the shape of an important message (particularly for this day and age) that - no matter what our background - we are all better off working together than apart. Though the film’s real ace card in relaying this notion is its ambition, as it doesn’t just stick with one set of characters - which is what you initially think as the film begins - instead it mixes things up in its grand orchestra of road delays, vehicular immobility and frustrated drivers, playing up to people’s stereotypes and prejudices to get to the heart of its story and make these characters flourish!
Pochan’s direction is stage show-esque, as it unfolds from one setting to another, getting bigger, grander and wilder, before wrapping up with a quiet crescendo, making good use of an aerial shot of the Reading, Pennsylvania location, it’s as if we are returning to our lives after a barmy experience...which is technically what this is. The production value is of an incredibly high standard and as scenes like La La Land’s traffic sequence come to mind, this goes further than just a passing set piece, it makes the utmost of its idea and the talented team who bring it to engrossing, toe-tapping life.
The cinematography from #SteveBackwalter, #KevinHackenberg and #SebastianNieves is great, capturing some in-car scenes as well as the congested road scenes. Some of the film’s little details set the tone (car bumper stickers, in-car props, costume) as much as the lyrics of the ongoing singing do, as the everyday fracas of life, despite being given a soundtrack, is made relatable and familiar, yet also cinematic through pure giddy silly movie magic...it reminded me a tad of Inside No. 9’s “Zanzibar” episode. Though it is, of course, the music that shines beyond anything else, as Sue Lange’s screenplay is absolutely brought to full life by a hugely talented team of operatic singers and by a excellent string of musicians that give composer #ChrisHeslop’s music impact.
The actors are - mostly - not doing the singing and some more over the top performances do show up that fact but sometimes it does kind of add to the movie’s madcap charm. The characters are not so much named as they are given general descriptions, which is in line with the short’s comments on prejudices, as the cast is occupied by the likes of Soccer Mom (#VickiHallerGraff (actor) & #TamaraBlack (singer), Latina #1 (#YasirisAlvarado (actor) &#MariaDamore (singer), Latina # 2 (#NarciRegina (actor) & #OliviaDamore (singer), Businessman (#BradleyHawkins (actor) & #JimmyDamore (singer), Rasta #1 (#GregHilbert (actor) & #ChristopherDavidRoché (singer) and Rasta #2 (#RashiedaAwan (actor) & Vicki Haller Graff (singer). In terms of performance, #ChristineCieplinski steals the show as a driver in the worst predicament possible, even more so as she occupies both roles of actor and singer and has that instant charm of a Melissa McCarthy-like figure.
The writing is not always laugh out loud hilarious but is charming, grounded in reality and entertaining, as Sue Lange sees the joy in the everyday. Her screenplay turns a normal daily scenario into a weird and wonderful playground, as the anonymous varied faces behind the steering wheels in a traffic jam are turned into flamboyant and exciting characters, whom stand out. There’s even a post-credits scene that likely will echo what many viewers are thinking after one particular scene earlier.
Overall Traffic Opera is a musical blast that takes its unusual yet identifiable idea and just runs with it. A lot of fun.