With the advent of Digital Video, a quiet revolution has swept the world of film-making. To your average filmgoer, celluloid and DV are becoming indistinguishable. They may have noticed that there was something quite rough and ready about Pieces of April, that Tape seemed rather limiting but when it comes to November, they are unlikely to notice a thing. Considering the very small budget of $300,000, November should have been a clear hit for InDigEnt, the independent NY studio who have produced a fair share of the hit DV films but it only took $200,000 at the boxoffice, ending the entire adventure on an anti-climax.
The same could actually be said for November - it all starts very promisingly as Sophie (Cox) and boyfriend Hugh (James Le Gros) pull up to a store. Sophie is still peckish despite having just eaten a huge meal out. Stuffing a 10 dollar bill in her boyfriends pocket, she sends him out to grab some chocolate whilst she makes a phone call. While Hugh is inside, a young hood comes in and holds up the store. As the tension heightens, he decides to round off his loot by getting Hugh's wallet but all he has on him is $10. Suddenly, the inexperienced criminal snaps, shooting Hugh and the rest of the staff. A month later we find Sophie in therapy trying to come to terms with her boyfriend's death but also submerged with a feeling of guilt she cannot shake off...
From that point on, Sophie's world begins to change dramatically, with strange occurrences and the nagging impression that someone know a lot more about her boyfriends murder than either her or the police do. One day, as she is teaching her regular photography class, a slide appears on the carousel that belongs to none of her students but seems to have been taken at the very time of the crime.
On a certain level, November is quite effective - the visual quality of the film is unbelievable given the lo-fi origins and the cinematographer has really managed to give the film a very distinct feel and style. The real problem is that the originality doesn't permeate all the layers of the film. The script bravely refuses to dumb down most of the time but it still leaves the viewer underwhelmed by the end of the film's short running time. There are too many elements that are too obvious "homages" to other films (I'll remain silent on which ones to avoid spoiling the film) and there is a mix of genres that doesn't always gel together. Cox does put in an adequate but not outstanding performance as Sophie. There is something about Cox that seems to prevent her from fully letting go and delivering on the goods. Something within her poise seems to exude annoyance or anger rather than the angst and fear she is supposed to be portraying. I imagine the film suffered from a dual turn-off factor. Cox may draw in fans of the so-called comedy that made her a household name, but realistically, anyone who enjoys the low-level thrills and spills of Friends are unlikely to seek out such a complex and demanding effort as November; conversely, fans of Nolan, Lynch and co may be equally put off by the casting of Cox as the main protagonist...
Still, November seems to have been unfairly treated by many - it does not deserve the slating it has received at the hands of some and takes risks where they could have played it straight. They may not fully pull off their elaborate tricks on each turn but it is still an enjoyable piece of work showing a great deal of promise and stands up to repeated viewing...
The image: As the entire film was recorded digitally, the image quality is unsurprisingly very good - obviously better than it would have looked in the cinema as celluloid has not been involved at all in the process. The different hues they have chosen for different sequences come out very well and any artifacting that appears is only quite minor. The blacks are globally stable but I noticed the image sometimes had a very flat feel to it but that is probably due to the DV filming more than anything else.
The sound: We are offered a stereo and a 5.1 mix. The 5.1 is very good with an effective use of spatial effects without going overboard whereas the stereo seems a little too little for the film.
The extras: Only a theatrical trailer - this is quite disappointing given that the US release featured two commentaries and an alternative opening scene. Given that this film will probably be viewed by many burgeoning film-makers, the commentaries about how they achieved so much with so little seems a must but sadly Sanctuary didn't seem fit to license them. I guess it is somewhat understandable given that November didn't even receive a theatrical release in the UK but surely the commentaries can't have been that expensive to buy?
I realise that given that this is a straight to DVD release for the UK, Sanctuary probably didn't want to invest too much into a film that has a poor track record at the box-office. Still, this film will always be popular with wannabe film directors and the US extras would have made it a must-buy to just see how to make a film on a shoestring.