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November 18, 2014

Starz Denver Film Festival 2014 - Thou wast Mild and Lovely

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Josephine Decker - 2014
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Considering the hubbub over Christopher Nolan's sound mix for Interstellar, anyone who was upset by that film's use of occasionally inaudible dialogue would best avoid Josephine Decker's work here. As for something resembling a straightforward narrative, you won't find that here either, as some bits and pieces of information are left out, especially in the ending, which producer Laura Heberton assured the festival audience, was deliberately ambiguous.

And I felt like I knew less about the main character, a young woman named Sarah, when the film ended. Her voiceover narration mentions a lover, no name, or even gender, is mentioned. The camera wanders around the small farm Sarah calls home, with a close up of a threatening dog. Sarah appears to be in her late teens Tossing a headless chicken with an older, bearded man, it turns out that the two are father and daughter. A man named Akin is the hired hand, although the father, Jeremiah, doesn't have much faith in his abilities to do the work. Not much about Akin is revealed, although it is indicated that he failed in some kind of venture involving beer hops. Although it is mentioned that Akin is married, he can't keep himself from spying on Sarah through a partially opened door, wearing just her bra and panties.

But what is really onscreen are hints of a story. Whatever tension is between Sarah and Jeremiah is ratcheted by Akin's presence. There is a mention of previous hired hands having dissatisfied Jeremiah, making one wonder if anything more suspicious had happened in the past. As the film progresses, Decker demands that the viewer fill in the blanks. Those seeking fully explanations will no doubt be frustrated, as the film concluded with as many questions as answers.

The discordant music by Mary Herron and Jeff Young reminded me of the kind of music associated with the Kronos Quartet, music composed by Penderecki being a more famous example. Out of left field is a brief moment of Betty Hutton singing "Murder, He Says", from the movie of the same name. And the song is a giveaway to what will later happen. But I would also like to think that George Marshall's comedy with naive Fred MacMurray stumbling upon the farm belonging to a lunatic family with a comely daughter provided some of the inspiration as much as the oft-stated, and more culturally respectable East of Eden. More accurately, thou wast wild and lovely.

Posted by peter at November 18, 2014 06:55 AM