Cemetery gates - Page 2

The hills are dead, but the music is alive in Colma: The Musical

But nothing is quite so exhilarating as the opener, "Colma Stays" ("like rigor mortis"), a snarky anthem that introduces the Bay Area, the movie's lead characters, and Colma's droll tenor in a sugar rush of split-screen, lip-synching joy.

Colma: The Musical was shot on mini-DV in a widescreen format, and in his first directorial feature, cinematographer-editor Wong already knows how to fill the screen and cut images to music with a genius simplicity that shames most Hollywood (even MTV) veterans. The filmic energy ideally complements performances that are deadpanned to perfect al dente density.

Irresistible at first listen, Colma: The Musical's songs haven't held up quite as well as I'd hoped over the last year's repeat listens on CD. But as someone who still treasures the '80s college rock likes of Game Theory, Let's Active, They Might Be Giants, and subsequent torch carriers, I'll happily note that a musical that sounds like those groups rather than the usual bad MOR (a description applicable even to the pseudosoulful Dreamgirls and the garish top 40 pastiche Moulin Rouge) is a step in the right direction.

On the other hand, the movie has improved. Clocking in at a generous 113 minutes during its festival travels, Colma: The Musical has since been tightened to a lean 95 without losing poignancy, hilarity, or nuance. "Listen, things got outta hand, things were said, basically everybody's at fault here," Rodel quasi-apologizes at a late point after an instance of much interpersonal ado about basically nada. The makers of Colma, by contrast, have made something remarkable from almost nothing. Their film is as sweet, funny, and dweeb-pop catchy as anything you're going to see this year.*


Opens Fri/22

See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com


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