| Jennifer Connely as Kathy Nicolo in House of Sand and Fog (courtesy photo) |
"O ur business is the American Dream" reads the motto of Fannie Mae, the financial institution created to facilitate home ownership. The American Dream, the belief that anyone with sufficient luck, grit, and pluck will succeed in the United States, is the business of much of the literature and cinema produced in this country, from Benjamin Franklin's autobiography to Jim Sheridan's current film, In America. The business goes for broke in House of Sand and Fog, in which a bungalow on a hill becomes the site for irreconcilable claims by disconnected dreamers. Not even Fannie Mae could avert the inevitable, but unpredictable disaster.
"Is this your house?" a policeman asks Kathy Nicolo, in a scene that opens the film and that recurs at its conclusion. House of Sand and Fog tells the story of desires that collide over ownership of a house. Kathy, a recovering alcoholic whose husband left her eight months ago, is evicted from the property her late father purchased more than 30 years before. The action is erroneous, based on Kathy's failure to pay taxes she in fact never owed, but before her rights can be restored, the house is sold at auction to an Iranian immigrant family, the Behranis. After living in it for a few months, they intend to resell the property for four times the bargain price they paid: $45,000.
| House of Sand and Fog |
Dir. Vadim Perelman; writ. Perelman, based on the novel by Andre Dubus III; feat. Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Ron Eldard, Frances Fisher, Kim Dickens, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jonthan Ahdout (R)
Massoud Amir Behrani was once a formidable figure in his native country, an intimate of the shah, whose overthrow forced Behrani into exile and adversity. As played by the inimitable Ben Kingsley, he is a man of impregnable dignity who, mindful of his former rank in the Iranian Air Force, insists on being addressed as "Colonel." Fiercely proud of his culture and his family, he sustains their façade of elegant affluence by secretly laboring at two menial jobs: a highway work crew and a convenience store. After buying the house whose resale he hopes will send his son to college, the Colonel rejoices: "Today God has kissed our eyes." He mistakes a cut for a kiss.
| House of Sand and Fog tells the story of desires that collide over ownership of a house. (courtesy photo) |
Perelman - himself an immigrant, from Russia - has, in his novice feature outing, translated Dubus' book into a plangent drama of crosscultural miscommunication. Each of the characters is flawed but sympathetic. Rich in textures of mist and murk, House of Sand and Fog, which itself deserves packed houses, is a graphic reminder of how brittle are the bricks with which we try to build our lives. Our deeds can always be contested. •