One Multi-expressed Love Story
This has been termed an experiment because it is unusual, but it is more of an adventure into the space of the written word.
Garcia is a writer. Writers use words as knives to open spaces to inhabit. With this particular kind of writer, it is the words themselves that have an energy as if they were alive. That life follows the discovered grain of compacted emotions, natural but unexpected. This is wholly different from how the majority of writers work, those who think characters can take you places, or the minority who believe in situations or emotions having life and leading the way.
But how to invite readers into those newly open pockets? Shakespeare had a solution: use actors as readers not characters. I don’ t think most movie-goers appreciate the different threads available to filmmakers and us as viewers, the different ways we have of connecting ourselves to the mind of the filmmaker through the medium. Most of use just assume that actors are meant to be characters and characters have something to do with real people.
Garcia works a different thread. His remarkable “Things You Can Tell…” exists first as words, then sensitive literary conceits, then as intensions in the collective minds of small ensembles, and only then as cinematic images of characters. The reason it works so effectively is because he shifts from one ensemble to another as if to emphasise: folks, this is not about these people you think you are seeing. It is about something deeper, more visceral and universal than whatever individuals are being conjured up.
That project exploited many cinematic tricks: repeated patterns and strophes in the mannerisms and situations of the characters. This project goes further, much further.
There are no ensembles. No mannerisms. No characters to speak of. The sets are homes, but homes framed with unnatural depth as if they were freshly opened crevices of imagination. The camera never moves. The dialog is as internal as one can get, as directly between us and the creator of those words.
So we have two things going on here. The first is the connection between us and Garcia’s poetry. I personally find it a little cloying, too artificially feminine, steeped in the crisis of the intelligent Latin male and promise of Spanish literature, that world of writing where the reality of the viewer creates the reality of the viewed.
But those reservations are minor compared to what else is going on here. All ten of these “stories” have the same soul, but he has given them to ten different women to interpret their own way, with no directions whatsoever. Then they show up and do it, often only meeting Garcia for the first time that day.
So what we have is something between real acting and reading, assuming that “real” acting is the process of creating a person while eliminating the actor. What we have are ten glimpses into the souls of actresses rather than ten glimpses at characters. I have watched this over and over, sometimes with just the sound. It is pretty remarkable. With only a few exceptions, these are not good actresses, not actresses who can transcend themselves with the material. They are people whose own emotional foibles get mixed with the words. What gets exposed is what it means to be an actress manipulated by forces not quite in their control. With their characters, it is the activity of a man. With the actresses, it is the words of a man.
Spend some time with this.
Posted in 2003
Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.