Dir. & writ. Sally Potter; feat. Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Sam Neill (R)
Sally Potter made a brilliant film once. Called Orlando, after the Virginia Woolf novel on which it was based, it used a few dreamy special effects appropriate to its tale of a surpassingly lovely Englishman who never grows old but does change gender as the centuries pass. In the main, though, it relied on clever dialogue and fine acting by the strange and ethereal Tilda Swinton in the title role. Since then her few films have shown a tendency toward the sort of fare that would be labeled romance for the over-40 female set if she didn't shellac it with a thick coat of intellectualism. Critics, realizing that intellectual women get short shrift all the time, refuse to give her hell for this because she's not obnoxious, like Camille Paglia, just tedious.
|Simon Abkarian and Joan Allen struggle to transcend Sally Potter's tedious moralizing and woozy special effects in Yes.|
Potter's newest film, Yes, has been lauded for addressing Middle East-Western relations in the post 9-11 world, but don't you believe it. For one thing, it springs not from the mind of the rigorous Woolf, but from Potter's own imagination, and so the protagonist, "She" - a female scientist who was born Irish, raised American, and is now trapped in a loveless marriage with a Brit who is (what else?) a cold, soulless prick who dances badly to blues music and seduces his wife's goddaughter - is given to melodramatic inner monologues: Must I always justify my work? she sighs when a friend takes a jab at her job, which seems to involve human embryos.
In fact, She, played surpassingly well under the circumstances by Joan Allen, is a little cold and selfish, but like Potter's alter ego in the Tango Lesson, she will be saved, exquisitely tormented, and mussed up a little (Harlequin Romance-style; there's a scene in which She's lover brings her off under a café table that may put you off cafés) by a swarthy, sexy other, "He," who is more alive and vital than any old white prick could hope to be. Post 9-11, He, naturally, is Lebanese (and loves to dance).
If it walks like a stereotype and talks like a stereotype, it's probably a stereotype, but even this would be forgivable if the film were acted. Instead, Potter wraps this overwrought romance polemic in slo-mo and other dreamlike special effects and - most egregious because of the many terrible lines it necessitates - rhyming verse. So when the pixie Irish maid is remonstrating with you about how you don't really see the hired help as human (a thought almost as old as dirt), you can sit back and think of words that rhyme with "crap."
Cinema Tuesdays with Texas Public Radio
Nicholas Roeg (1971)
An Aborigine guides an abandoned young girl and her brother through the Australian outback in a journey that serves as a metaphor for the conflict between the natural and urban worlds. The screening begins at 7:30 p.m, Tuesday, August 9, at the Bijou at Crossroads Theatre. Tickets are $10 TPR members / $12 nonmembers, available at tpr.org or 800-622-8777 during business hours.
Movies on the Slab
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Dir. William Sterling (1972)
Dudley Moore is the Dormouse and Peter Sellers the March Hare in this '70s adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic. Alice's adventure begins at dusk Thursday, August 4, at the Slab at Probandt and Cevallos, across from La Tuna Icehouse. Admission is free. For more info, visit saevents.org/movies/index.htm.