Bahrini delivers intelligence and beauty in 'Solo'
Issue date: 5/8/09 Section: Arts & Entertainment
The film begins with a Senegalese taxi driver, named Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane) who picks up the elder mournful William (Red West), who is from the South. William hires Solo to drive him in two weeks time to Blowing Rock, a mountain top, where William plans to end his life. The charming Solo sneaks his way into William's life and the film continues to follow the relationship between the two men.
The friendship between the two characters is completely ironic because they are the opposite of each other in more ways than one. Solo is open, friendly, and the audience can't help but fall in love with him. William, on the other hand, is tough and just wants to keep Solo and the world at a distance. Solo is trying to live the American Dream, while William has realized he has already lived his life, and there is nothing left for him.
Although Solo and William could not have anything less in common, they realize they are connected and have come into each other's lives for a reason, even if it is just for a short time.
The film is based on a cab driver, but is not set in the city. Instead the film takes place in Winston-Salem, N.C., Bahrani's hometown. Bahrani says the difference between taxis in cities and taxis in small towns like Winston-Salem is that people who take taxis in cities have money, where as those that take taxis in Winston-Salem are from the lower working class. Bahrani sent Savane to spend six months with a cab driver from the area and was able to incorporate the driver's joyous and friendly personality into his performance. Bahrani also used this method-acting technique with West, whose performance relies heavily on body language rather than dialogue. Bahrani says that he isolated West. Not a single person was allowed to talk to or congratulate West while on the set, so West could better portray William's introverted character. It is clear throughout the film that Bahrani focused his attention on the actors.
"My characters are not visitors," Bahrani says.
The character relationships in "Goodbye Solo" are the central aspect of this film and it is clear with Bahrani's remarkable directing and his talented actors.
"Goodbye Solo," has gone back to roots of what true independent films should be - a simple film that focuses heavily on story and character relationships. Bahrani does not romanticize the film, nor does he add special effects to give the film a glamorous appeal - qualities that Hollywood films have been sought after for years, but now independent filmmakers have fallen guilty of. Bahrani said he is disappointed by this change in independent films.
"A Hollywood film is like a candy bar that gives me a stomach ache. Well, I want to have a good soup," Bahrani said on the landscape of the film industry.
Bahrani successfully tells a story about the nature of friendship and selfless love. "Goodbye Solo," is a perfect independent film - simple, intelligent, beautifully crafted, with a compelling story. The film has recently won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Venice Film Festival and it continues to gain film critic's respect across the U.S.
The film opens May 8 at the Ritz.