Animation / Crime / Documentary

IMDb Rating 8 10 6564


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April 27, 2019 at 06:35 PM



Walter Cronkite as Himself
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by dmgreer 10 / 10

Beautiully told first person account of survival and courage

I cried three or four times, maybe five times while watching Tower.

Told with a combination of still photos, grainy 8mm film footage from the incident itself, and rotoscopic animation, it begins in the middle, with the radio announcement some tens of minutes into the incident, lingering only briefly to set the mood.

Then it switches to Claire talking about just before things started happening. The actress playing Claire is rotoscoped, which is an animation technique that looks both real and animated at the same time, because it's like tracing over the actual images. It's a good technique for this type of documentary, because at once it distances you from the actor, yet brings you closer to the person the actor is portraying, and of the age they were when the events took place.

In this way the actors explain things using the words of the real person who was being interviewed, and they also appear as characters in the re-enactment of the events. Because it's rotoscopy, the emotions of the actors carry over and you're able to relate to their feelings. The rotoscopy also enables the director to place people in the Mall without them actually being there, so there was no need to clear the Mall or to ask for permission to film. And it allows for a special touch when Claire tells of her fiancé.

Claire Wilson is the anchor of the story, having been the first one known shot, and also having been 8 months pregnant at the time. She lay out on the concrete of the Mall in front of the tower for over an hour in the August heat, her dead fiancé beside her, helped only by Rita Starpattern, who ran out to help despite the continued sniping.

Other main stories are of the two policemen who killed the sniper, a citizen who helped them, another policeman who went to help at the top of the tower, a freshman with his own story of heroism, a paperboy who was shot, the radio announcer who narrated and warned of the events, and a young woman who only watched.

Rita Starpattern appears only through Claire's narrative, because she died of cancer before anyone interviewed her. Some of the others had been interviewed before they died, and a few more, including Claire, were interviewed for the documentary.

The last part of the film is inter cut with the interviews of the real people whose avatars have been narrating the action. By saying Claire is the anchor, I don't mean to discount the contributions of the others, most of whom performed heroically in a desperate situation.

The sound of the movie is evocative, with music from the time, announcements on the radio, the cicadas of Summer, and of course the incessant gunfire.

I saw the film at the Dallas International Film Festival, so the director was there to answer questions at the end. Answers I recall were that the sniper, who does not appear in the film, made a midnight call on his music teacher, saying that he was very upset and needed to talk. He sat down at the piano and played Claire de Lune, and then said that was what he needed, and left.

Another was that Rita Starpattern never spoke of her actions that day. He said many people in Austin, where she had lived, gasped when they saw her name.

One man in the audience said he knew the sniper's CO in the Marines, who said that the sniper was very much into his role as a killer, and looked forward to being able to kill people legally.

It's odd to think of something that happened in one's own lifetime as a period piece, but younger viewers will understand more of what life was like before ubiquitous global communication. After the shooting, everyone involved lost contact with each other, something unimaginable today. A local radio announcer was the sole contact for news, and also served to warn people about what was going on. At least there were home phones, radio, TV, and 8mm cameras, so I guess it wasn't that primitive.

Reviewed by JustCuriosity 10 / 10

Powerful Film Recreating the 1966 UT Tower Shooting

SPOILER: Tower received huge ovations and overwhelming support in its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin. It has already won the grand jury award for best documentary. This is powerful spectacular film that brings back the most traumatic event in the history of this city when a gun man from the UT-Austin's iconic tower committed mass murder on sunny day in August. The film was made to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of the one of the earliest and one of the worst mass school shootings in American history. It will be released widely on PBS's Independent Lens later this year and possibly in theaters as well. There are still many folks in Austin who remember that day. The filmmaker made the brilliant choice to combine original news coverage with animation so as to recreate the tragic events nearly perfectly (without having to actually film people shooting on the UT- Austin campus). They use actor's voice to recreate the events which are based on interviews with many of the original participants (victims, police, witnesses). Very little is said about the gun man.

For those of us came to the Forty Acres (UT-Austin campus) years later, there is an eerie feeling in just watching the events play out at the center of campus where we know every building, every column, every statue like our own homes. The film is haunting and spellbinding. I really couldn't look away. Afterwards, many of the still living original participants who were portrayed in the film were present on the stage. The moving presence was Clare Wilson, the woman who was 8-month pregnant, and lost her baby and her boyfriend that day.

Tower remains mostly non-political as the film is mostly just a recreating of horror of August 1, 1966. Towards the end, it does speak to the current politics of the issue – particularly the Texas campus carry. That law is scheduled to take effect at 4-year universities in Texas on the 50th anniversary on August 1, 2016 – supposedly by coincidence. Those current day politics have become an unavoidable epilogue that have forced themselves into the debate. That will also be the day when they are planning to unveil an official memorial to the victims on the UT campus. This is a difficult film to watch, but it must be seen, because the history remains completely relevant today.

Reviewed by artmania90 10 / 10

A critic took the words out of my mouth: essential viewing.

TOWER is an important movie for all the right reasons. It is an artistic feast; a cinematic marvel that recreates a tragedy with a simple beauty without falling into the tropes of documentary filmmaking. This is not a documentary, rather it's more of a non-fiction retelling that casts actors to read lines in place of the real people. It recounts a school shooting that happened long before memories of Columbine - on a sprawling Texas campus where a sniper took a town hostage and murdered a total of 17 victims (including an unborn child) and shooting a total of 49 people. In a time when mass shootings have become a standard scroll on the nightly news, this was a new kind of crime. It only seems fitting that the movie uses a new form of craft to tell it.

It was the summer of 1966 on the sweltering campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Summer courses were just beginning, and the college town surrounding the buildings were bustling with excited youth and students. It was just after noon. From nowhere, people recall hearing "pops" and suddenly the air was filled with targeted bullets, first striking down a pregnant woman and her boyfriend in the stone plaza outside the central clock tower. Soon after, a boy on his bike was shot several blocks away. Chaos ensued.

On a day when the top news was going to be little more than the heat, here was suddenly a national emergency that gripped the country. A local news director hopped in his car and broadcast the scene from a portable radio. His voice was heard all over America. From the clock tower, the rumors that a sniper was preying on those below with no regard and no sense. Why don't more people talk about this tragedy today?

The film is designed to be a documentary (although I would argue it doesn't fall into that specific genre for a variety of reasons) with talking heads of students and police officers explaining what happened. We know they are actors, and their accounts strike us as surprisingly modern in expression and tone. The rotoscoped faces keep the past at a safe distance, and it's almost easy for the audience to distance themselves from the horror that actually happened here. Through black and white recreations and grainy archival footage, the film crafts a landscape of southern comfort and familiarity with those living nearby.

There is a moment like a bombshell midway through the film, when we suddenly cut from the illustrated actor to an actual aged woman, continuing her story without a moment's hesitation. This woman (now in her 60's or so) is one of the survivors: the woman who lost her unborn child at the hand of the gunman. It's a revelation - splicing the animation with the real, creating a moment that is all the more impactful by bridging that historical and visual gap. Now we understand that these actors are not reading from a script... They are telling the actual words by those who survived it.

There are beautiful moments that are beyond words - like when a red-headed woman rushed to the aid of this pregnant woman even though she remained completely vulnerable to the shooter. They begin a conversation to keep their minds off the terror and carnage. Another moment when a couple of students act heroically in order to save victims from the slow death that awaited them. They run out in the face of danger and carry victims to safety. This was a time that separated the heroes amongst us, and there were unbelievably brave people that were caught in the midst of it all.

By the end, "Tower" became a movie that commented on the string of recent shootings, the prevalence of violence in our culture, our unwillingness to stop it... There have been several movies made about the ideas of school violence and mass shootings. I recently re-watched "Elephant" which is a great Gus Van Sant film that recreates a Columbine-like shooting and yet does nothing to answer the simple question of "why?" "Tower" is great not because deals with the same question, rather it adds to it: why can't we stop this from happening?

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