Films have their titles changed a lot more often then people realize. Sometimes it is for the better and other times you wonder why the change must have been made. Take a look at the film See No Evil for instance. One of its original titles was Eye Scream Man…yeah, I thought the change was very welcomed. Often times, though, you see the final title and realize that it makes a ton of sense and the first couple choices made none whatsoever so you wonder where they came from at all. The problem I have is when I don’t have a clue as to what the call the film I’m reviewing. It landed in my mailbox with DVD cover art stating Ghost Writer, but from what my research has turned up, the title has since been changed to Suffering Man’s Charity. How does that even happen once the DVD is on store shelves?
John Vandermark is a music teacher with a very over the top personality that enjoys molding talented young men into his vision. He does well with his little hobby and usually ends up with success stories right before his eyes. That doesn’t always prove to be the case though and that’s evident from his latest test case, Sebastian St. Germain. St. Germain owes months of back rent to his landlord Vandermark and doesn’t really want to play the man’s game so he ends up playing him instead. This ends up setting the teacher off and forcing him to change St. Germain into lingerie, tie him to a chair with Christmas lights, and ask him questions that will either relieve his debt (correct answers) or merit him another lashing (wrong answers). The question remains though, will St. Germain answer enough right to get out with his life?
Ghost Writer (Charity?) is a little confusing in the beginning and sort of slow as well, but I urge you not to get turned off and forget about it. After the first half an hour, things get rolling along and you’ll find yourself completely enthralled with all that is going on and especially with Vandermark who is played masterfully by Alan Cumming. Is insanity seems almost merited because of the way he explains being taken advantage of and just having it done one time too many when St. Germain attempted it. He then just heads off the deep end and takes matters into his own hands which might seem amusing at times if it wasn’t so damn depressing and sad. It’s weird. St. Germain is the one tied up and being whipped with the bow of a string instrument, but you’re going to feel sorry for Vandermark more then anything because he seems just so damn distraught and beaten (figuratively).
More research has been done as this review has been written, and everything I find still points at the film being originally called Ghost Writer but the final title ending up as Suffering Man’s Charity. Yet the DVD goes against everything I’ve read. And honestly, I like Charity as the title better because it just makes more sense and is a bit of a play on words. After reading my review and seeing the first part of the film; you’ll think that the “suffering man” is St. Germain when in reality, it’s Vandermark. His life has been one big collection of suffering that has gotten to be too much of him and he finally wants to take some control of his life. Suffering Man’s Charity is a much more suitable title for a film that will probably end up getting a lot less attention then it should.
The film is shown in Widescreen Format and it looks fine with no pixilation or fading of any sort.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it comes through well with the music being heard nicely and all dialogue at a good volume.
Audio Commentary – Director/actor Alan Cumming sits alone for this commentary track and lets you know right off the bat that he also produced this film. This track is really quite boring as he talks a lot about what is happening on screen and then when he does say something unique, he backs it up with nothing. You’ll notice this right away when he talks about “it’d be nice to have the titles run over garbage.” That’s it, nothing else follows it. One of the biggest problems with the commentary is that Cumming just says nothing at all many times and the volume of the film is turned down so much that not a single thing can be heard.
Trailers – Savage Grace, Anamorph, Show Business: The Road To Broadway, and Tin Man
It’s interesting and it is different, but it’s not good and it’s not bad. Suffering Man’s Charity (not going to call it Ghost Writer since it’s not the better title) is a heart-wrenching, funny, disturbing, and intriguing film, but it’s kind of difficult to keep on paying attention throughout and that’s a problem. It takes a while to get rolling and then when it does get a little fun; things stay mostly the same until the somewhat head-scratching end. Cumming does an excellent job as the mind-freaked Vandermark, but he seems to lose every bit of personality he has when he is acting as himself for the commentary track. Then considering that’s the only special feature on the DVD, then it really hurts the overall score. I don’t know what to really suggest here except for trying it as a rental or perhaps wait and see if it ever pops up on TV then give it a shot.
Oh and Ghost Writer would be a really cool name for a flick…if it actually made sense.
Genius Entertainment presents Ghost Writer. Directed by: Alan Cumming. Starring: Alan Cumming, David Boreanaz, Anne Heche, Henry Thomas, Jane Lynch, Karen Black, Carrie Fisher. Written by: Thomas Gallagher. Running time: 92 minutes. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: January 6, 2008. Available at Amazon.com