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November 16, 2005

Where the Truth Lies

Atom Egoyan - 2005
Thinkfilm 35mm film

Here's a little bit of irony - I can not remember the first Atom Egoyan film I saw. All I can remember is that it was prior to Exotica, but none of the descriptions seems to fit the images in my memory. For those unfamiliar with Egoyan, the irony is that many of his films are about memory, in Egoyan's films usually of a catastrophic event, and how it has shaped the present.

Unlike Ararat which attempted to personalize historical events, Truth is more modest in scope. What both films have in common is demonstrating the extreme actions people take in the name of truth, or in order to maintain a lie. After tackling the genocide of the Armenian population in Turkey in 1915, a roman a clef about a duo somewhat similar to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis must have seemed less demanding. In this case, we have Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) as the former duo investigated by a journalist, Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman) with secrets of her own.

For a brief moment while watching Truth, I thought of Scorsese's The Aviator. Although Egoyan doesn't sustain the feeling, there are times when Truth basks in a sense of informality, of being made primarily to entertain during lighter moments early in the film. Clearly Hitchcock is invoked in a scene when Colin Firth confronts Alison Lohman. Otherwise Egoyan evokes specific times and places of the past without resorting to "quoting" from other filmmakers.

Even the best relationships in Egoyan films are tenuous and Truth is no exception. Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth essentially live together only for the duration of their professional partnership. Seen fifteen years after their breakup, Firth lives alone in a house overlooking Los Angeles, while Bacon is pointedly filmed alone in a large office, isolated from his staff. Both truth and lies can break relationships. As in other Egoyan films, the remaining characters are isolated from each other.

Curiously this film has gotten released almost simultaneously with Jerry Lewis' autobiographical Dean and Me (A Love Story). One of the plot points of Truth is that the Lewis character is writing his own autobiography, that is to say, his own version of the truth. If Lanny Morris is not quite Jerry Lewis, between his own confessions in Nick Tosches' biography of Dean Martin, and his performance as Buddy Love and Jerry Langford one can glimpse enough to recognize that the character is not totally fictionalized. Maybe the reality of Rupert Holmes' novel, the basis of the movie, was a catalyst for Lewis to tell his version of the story of Dean and Jerry.

Posted by peter at November 16, 2005 05:32 PM