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Submitted by admin on September 24, 2024 – 9:52 amNo Comment

When the mocking laughter has faded, when the tears of forced emotion have dried you have Catfish. In this documentary about people deceiving other people, mainly through Facebook, the explanation of the title comes in an explanatory manner by one of the supporting players. It seems that the codfish, when being shipped a great distance would get mushy and tasteless. But if you put a catfish in with the cod they keep movement alive and therefore have some flavor. So metaphorically the catfish is a catalyst of change.

The truth is neither catfish nor cod is a great tasting fish, at least compared to say salmon or mahi mahi, but is enhanced in the cooking process through spice. The filmmakers of Catfish have served up a bland dish devoid of the kind of relish that makes a memorable meal.

Because of the plot that involves a fake user identity via a social networking website one has to ask if this is a faux documentary or real. Certainly on the heels of I’m Still Here the theatrical experience is ripe with deception. Another documentary from last year, Dear Zachary explored faked identity to a much more authentic conclusion, and contained a blast of human emotional fireworks. But DZ was in the end about murder and guilt while Catfish offers no greater payoff than a kind of cautionary warning, barely a wrist slap about making friends online. Catfish too benefits from a smart advertising campaign and a major distributor (Rouge a division of Universal) while Dear Zachary was barely released by its boutique distribber Oscilloscope.

Catfish employs snazzy graphics as the filmmakers travel from New York to Vail, Colorado and then the upper Great Lakes region of Michigan. We zoom across the hemisphere with the rapid scope of Google maps, zooming down on the filmmakers from far above as they use, ah, the internet and global positioning software to stalk their prey.

At first the online communication is short and sweet but it soon evolves into trading pictures and songs over Facebook. It was especially eye-opening that the participants are at first fooled by an MP3 version of the song “Tennessee Stud” (they’re into horses) that’s assumed to be sung by one of the film’s cast but turns out to be from a Youtube video of Austin based singer-songwriter Suzanna Choffel.

Looks are deceptive but the two-dimensionality of the web merely distorts what is already a carnival mirror image of life. Catfish is currently playing at the Edwards Grand Palace.

- Michael Bergeron

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