Treasure Island (1999)

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Treasure Island (1999) Movie Review


It's very refreshing, in today's overexposed and anti-climatic realm of moviemaking, that art still can exist in a medium such as film. It is very refreshing to know that there are still individuals on the fringes, trying their damnedest to re-invent the wheel of cinema. Treasure Island is one of those successful ventures of creating an art film for the sake of taking everything learned about filmmaking, piling it up, and lighting the whole mess on fire.

The story takes place during the second World War in San Francisco. Two intelligence officers are assigned to the duty of creating a false life for a dead man - including family letters, tickets to shows, and love letters from kindred souls - and planting him in Japanese territory to confuse the Japanese military of pending Allied military operations. Naturally, the two officers infuse their own personal letters, hatreds, and family situations into the creation of the life of the dead man. The only problem is that these two officers are the two most messed-up individuals I have seen since Hopper in Blue Velvet.

Frank, the straightforward officer, leads a triple life of deceit and confusion. Frank is a polygamist with two wives, one Japanese and hiding in Chinatown, and another that could use years of therapy to overcome a series of personal hang-ups. The guy is even on the make for wife #3 on the weekends. Throw in a bit of really strange sexual perversions and you got one screwed up puppy dog. His partner, Samuel, is a walking Freudian case study of sexual domination and homosexual longings. He and his wife cruise the town at night looking for men to satisfy their cravings for threesomes. Add some repressive anger syndrome and you've got one unhappy camper. And remember, kind reader, this is 1943.

Scott King, the director of this emotional roller coaster of fun, brings to the screen the vividness of a noir film shot in the 1950s. The film is shot in black and white with a strange sepia tone that makes it look like film stock that has been degraded by years and years of storage in someone's cellar. King immediately places the viewer in the thick of things and only offers slight narration with location shots of San Francisco Bay Area. The camera angles are tight and each shot gives you a small bit of understanding of each of the main characters' persona. The acting is fueled by unknown stage actors who provide brutal and frank honesty that sometimes brings about discomfort to the audience. King's ability to successfully shoot a period piece, including costume and production design, on an independent budget stands out as determined filmmaking at its finest.

Treasure Island is not a film for everyone (nor is it about the Stevenson book). I wouldn't take my mum to see it. Treasure Island is a film for filmmakers and people that understand that most truthful thing in this world is the words and emotions that people say in silence to one another. Treasure Island is littered with painful convictions, hedonistic intentions, sexual repression, and a general state of confusion about the place one must have in life.

Ready for her close-up.


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Treasure Island (1999) Rating

" Excellent "

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