- Directed by Matheus Ronn -
“Jury Duty” is an evocative piece of cinema, and not only in terms of visual style, but also in terms of storytelling. The structure of the script strongly resembles Kurosawa’s masterpiece “Rashomon”: A murder is recalled from differing points of view. However, the subject is typical to Hollywood cinema of the last century: a capricious diva who fell into disgrace is preparing to return on the stage, but she is murdered during rehearsals. Because of her tense relationship with everyone involved behind-the-scenes, multiple people are suspected.
“Jury’s Duty” is mostly composed of static shots and the untangling of the story is the thing filling the atmosphere with suspense. However, the rhythm is rather slow because of the constant repetition of every situation, which is once told by a character and also shown within a flashback. There are no extra clues in the flashbacks, no addition to the story, so the co-existence of the two narrative plans is unnecessary. The modern public can process pretty fast visual information, so old storytelling formulas need some adaptation to the present conditions when borrowed.
In recent years there has been a trend of evoking the golden ages of celluloid cinema: Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist" or Pablo Berger's unique interpretation of “Snow White” are the best known examples. That is only normal in an artistic era that we still consider being part of postmodernism, when pastiche, parody, and intertextuality are tools that have spread even to the Internet’s casual video-makers. But even for the much-loved “The Artist” an uncanny question has arisen: aren’t nostalgia and pastiche meant to help modern cinema to achieve new heights? America’s beloved auteurs like Tarantino and Scott Ridley have recycled some old recipes but managed to interiorize their sources of inspiration and come out with new, dazzling styles. While watching “Jury Duty”, a lot of references came to my mind, but there was nothing new to explore, no innovative use of old techniques, no mark of creativity. I think it’s a shame for artists to let themselves merged into the effort of replicating the best of a certain age, instead of investing those resources into finding their cinematic language, their unique voice.