Friday, September 17, 2010

The New Year Parade (2009)

I had been wanting to see Tom Quinn's movie "The New Year Parade" for sometime now, and only now have I gotten around to it.  The movie for me didn't disappoint.  Mr. Quinn photographed his film over four years, and with a ton of footage he has managed to create a beautiful film about family, and tradition. 

The film introduces us to the McMonogul family, whose members have been part of the South Philadelphia String Band for several generations.  Mike played by Andrew Conway finds out that his wife (Ann McDonald) has been unfaithful, and he moves out in a rage.  Mike is the captain of the string band, and he buries himself in his obsession, or is it his duty of getting ready for next years show.  Throughout the movie there are hints that Mikes wife had her reasons, yet the movie only hints at that.  It's that which I find unfortunate because Quinn does show the stereo-typical Irish-American family as it has been depicted in many movies for sometime.  You know the working class protagonist who says little but fights his demons day in and day out, and drowns those demons in alcohol.  That's the disappointing thing about the film, yet I still liked it for it's atmosphere & the way it told its story about this family.   It's not about despondent characters, but characters trying to come to grips with their family falling apart.

Quinn has mentioned in interviews that before writing this film he had video taped many friends of his who were victims of divorce.  Through those tapes he set out to create a story that centers around an annual event that happens every year here in Philly.  That event is the Mummers parade.  It's an amazing event here in Philly, and what I like about the film is how Quinn weaves his story around the event.  He uses "real" people to tell us why this parade is special.  It is only through the backdrop of the parade that we are told the story of the McMonogul family.

Greg Lyons and Jennifer-Lynn Welsh play the McMonogul children.  Jack (Greg Lyons) is in his early 20's while Kat (Jennifer-Lyn Welsh) is around 16, and they are devastated by their mom and dads break-up.  Kat decides to stay with her mom, and we can see the division that is happening between mother and daughter.  Jack on the other hand accuses his father of destroying the family and not forgiving his mom. 

The movie shows this in a sort of documentary style.  The performances of the actors are really well done, and I believe that the family is heading for a breakdown, yet again I feel as though I am seeing a movie I have seen before.  Tough, down trodden men & women who believe in tradition, and who lead stoic lives.  But more often the movie is obsessed with details with the mundane. Employing a style that flirts with the cinema Verdi documentary form of film making rather then the narrative form.

What makes it different is Quinn adding the footage of the club preparing for the parade. The movie feels authentic because of this footage , and it has likable characters which we feel for.  It is this that makes "The New Year Parade" interesting and worth seeing.  Maybe it's a compliment that I wanted to see more of the characters interact with each other.  I wanted to see a bit of resolution here, but Quinn doesn't do that and that's alright.  Life doesn't come with happy endings, and yet at the end of the film you feel satisfied.  I heard that it took Quinn two years to edit, and it shows how masterful he was in getting his story put together in such a unique way. 

In the end  The New Year Parade is a film which is told in an unusual way by a very gifted filmmaker, and worth seeing.

1 comment:

Tom Quinn said...

Thanks for the kind write up, Karl! Best of luck with your film and release.