Penelope (Eunice Hong) is an aspiring model, heading to a photography session with a world famous photographer, Richard Banks (Randall McFadden). When she arrives, she finds that she will be alone with Banks, but any hesitation disappears when she considers his career. As she models for his camera, he often seems unimpressed, his few compliments disingenuous, challenging her to bring something new to the table, like her true personality, which seems to be lacking in her poses and choice of garment. The longer the session goes, the more contentious the experience becomes for both.
Just as Banks pushes Penelope in an effort to find out if there is anything there beyond the obvious, so too did I keep waiting for The Cage to show me something more. You can see what it’s trying to do, and you get the idea of what it wants to be, but it never quite gets there. There’s nothing profound in how Banks works with Penelope, and nothing incredible about how she responds; likewise, there is nothing captivating about what this film is trying to achieve.
The revelations, if there are any, are all there at the outset of the film, if not explicitly stated. It’s odd that a massively successful photographer is photographing an unknown, of course, and there is an inherent creepiness to a model arriving for a gig to only be greeted by the photographer, but the film doesn’t really take advantage of your preconceptions or feelings to deliver anything of memorable importance, beyond a consistent uncomfortableness. Thus it becomes what it always was, a modeling session that really had little point, whether those involved have openly admitted as much or not.
So, yeah, as far as the narrative goes, I really didn’t care much for what the film was saying, or where it was, or wasn’t, taking me. There was little to no connection or engagement. Which is a problem for a short film approaching twenty minutes, a length that’s pushing it even in films that I do enjoy.
That said, the film is composed well. Technically it is sound, and is visually dynamic enough to keep the eye interested (though there is only so much one can take of watching someone take a picture of someone else). The filmmaking skills are solid, I just don’t know that it comes together in a meaningful way otherwise.
Ultimately, I can give points for the competence of the crew, but the film as a whole did not engage me. I think it wants to be a study in identity, personal choices and the challenges of dreams versus the ugly realities; what I got out of it was an uninteresting photography session that goes on for far too long, and doesn’t offer up any insights or elements we haven’t heard or seen before.
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