EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|SLEEPWALK (director/writer: Sara Driver; screenwriters: Lorenzo Mans/from a story by Sara Driver and Kathleen Brennan; cinematographers: Franz Prinzi/Jim Jarmusch; editor: Li Shin Yu; music: Phil Kline; cast: Suzanne Fletcher (Nicole), Ann Magnuson (Isabelle), Dexter Lee (Jimmy), Steven Chen (Dr. Gou), Tony Todd (Barrington), Richard Boes (The Thief), Ako (Ecco Ecco), Roberta Wright (Fence), Steve Buscemi (worker), Harvey Perr (The Boss); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Sara Driver/Kathleen Brennan; Orion; 1986)|
|"An indie gem, that deliciously
mixes surreal fantasy with gritty reality."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An indie gem, that deliciously mixes surreal fantasy with gritty reality. Actress Sara Driver ("You Are Not I") directs a Chinese fairy tale that weirdly encroaches on the life of a lower Manhattan dwelling twentysomething typesetter, Nicole (Suzanne Fletcher). It's based on a story written by Driver and Kathleen Brennan. The film won the prestigious Georges Sadoul Prize in France.
The single parent Chinese
speaking white American, Nicole, accepts a moonlighting job to
translate a Chinese manuscript of old nursery rhymes for the sinister Dr. Gou (Steven Chen), whose name means Year of the Dog, and
his threatening African-American sidekick Barrington (Tony
Todd), a thug who tells us that
he was formerly an academic. Nicole's generously paid upfront in cash, and
told to finish it in a few days and never let it out of her sight.
While working on the
translation of the four fairy tales at night in the copy shop, located
in a grimy warehouse, several
strange things occur: Nicole's self-absorbed, obnoxious, vain and
chatty French roommate Isabelle goes bald, while one tale is
translated; as another tale is translated, Nicole's finger bleeds for
no apparent reason and then heals itself; A frightened Japanese woman
named Ecco Ecco (Ako), who was the owner of the stolen manuscript, is
strangled to death with her own hair and mutilated before she shows up
for her rooftop meeting to tell Nicole why it's dangerous to possess
the mysteriously almond-poison smelling manuscript; intermittently we
hear the nursery tales recited offscreen by
Ecco Ecco and by Nicole while at work by her work station; we learn by Nicole's elevator trip down
(visualized as a Dante's Inferno-like descent) that on one of the stops
Dr. Gou has an office in her warehouse and sleeps on a bed of almonds;
and, later we are shocked that Nicole's adolescent half-Chinese
son (Dexter Lee) is inadvertently
kidnapped by a small-time
car thief (Richard Boes) while asleep in the back seat of the
irresponsible illegal alien Isabelle's unregistered car, as she visits
a Chinatown herbalist for hair treatment when she was given $300 by
Nicole to take the kid to an Atlantic City hotel while she works all
night on the manuscript.
The strange connections
between the laconic Nicole's mundane life and the Chinese fairy tales
are executed with eerily beautiful images, as it pushes the boundaries
for the viewer to find for themselves where reality vanishes and
fantasy begins. Driver will not resolve for us the opaque mystery
story, even as it becomes more macabre and unsettling.
A most enjoyable and
intelligent work, one that I highly recommend if you're not concerned
over lack of plot and are looking for something different and a pic
that respects the viewer's intelligence and is not easy to label. It
asks the viewer to find their own way around such a magical and mysterious moody atmospheric
pic, as its unique trance-like story is surprisingly free of allegory
or poetic trappings. The aptly titled Sleepwalk, perhaps, can be lumped
other worthy sublime
non-narrative dream-like experimental films, such as Un
chien andalou, The
Blood of a Poet and Meshes
of the Afternoon, whose common denominator might be surrealism.
REVIEWED ON 7/12/2010 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ