The brainchild of animator and director
Tatia Rosenthal, $9.99 takes its inspiration from the short
stories of feted Israeli author Etgar Keret.
This inventive stop-motion feature boasts
an array of homegrown talent in the voice cast. The story revolves
around 28-year-old Dave (Samuel Johnson), whose halfhearted search for
employment is stymied by his preoccupation with finding the reason for
his existence. His father Jim (Anthony LaPaglia) doesnít approve of
these existentialist leanings, nor of the fact Dave has spent his last
ten dollars on a book titled The Meaning of Life. Other characters,
including the pairís neighbours, a trio of pint-sized ruffians and the
angel of a homeless man (Geoffrey Rush) round out the cast, and their
stories and lives interweave in a rich and at times surrealistic
exploration of hope.
The product of nine years worth of work on
the part of its tireless director, $9.99 represents the first
Israeli-Australian co-production, with shooting taking place in
Australia and post-production in Tel Aviv.
The animation itself was, to put it mildly,
a laborious process. Whereas the vocal performances were recorded in
three weeks, production crews spent nearly a year bringing Rosenthalís
vision to life, with each day of work yielding approximately four
seconds of footage. The end result is startling and hypnotic; a magic
realist urban sprawl painstakingly crafted down to the most minute of
Which is why the lack of bonus features on
the BD release is such a disappointment. Though seemingly the perfect
vehicle for a host of interviews and behind the scenes footage, all
thatís on offer here are scene selection and the choice between DTS-HD
and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio.
Rosenthalís feature length debut is in
large part a subtle and beguiling effort, and the way in which the
characters search for meaning and purpose lends a dignity to their
outwardly unremarkable lives. Picture quality is impeccable, vocal
performances are excellent and the largely classical score is crisp and
strong. Still, one could be forgiven for thinking a directorís
commentary is all but assured in this day and age...