Sunday, August 05, 2007

PERSONAL VELOCITY

PERSONAL VELOCITY: THREE PORTRAITS (2002, USA)
I don't know what all of this means, but it's got to mean something. Don't you see that? It makes sense. It's got to be a sign.

Rebecca Miller transfers three of her stories to the screen with all the instincts of a true film maker. There is a literary quality here – effective use of voice over, the below-the-surface-ness of a fine short story – but that doesn't stop this deeply moving film from being equally cinematic, as strongly visual as it is verbal.

As a director, Miller clearly knows how to work with actors, drawing extraordinary performances from Kyra Sedgwick as a woman who takes her children and flees an abusive husband, Parker Posey as an up-and-coming literary editor, and Fairuza Balk as a young woman who picks up her first hitch-hiker: "She had known it was a sign...."

All three portraits are rich with human detail, capturing women who make unexpected, even inscrutable, decisions at those hinge moments when lives undergo tumultuous change. A certain unity is achieved by the distinctive look of the film – a wonderfully successful use of digital video – and the fact that parts of each of these New York stories occur on the same day, as signalled by the news report of a freakish traffic accident which plays into each.

The final 26 minute episode is a marvel of narrative understatement and compaction: the opening sequence at the donut shop uses extremely deft and understated editing to suggest important themes and raise doubts about characters and chronology, presenting subtle details which may reflect the character's thoughts and fears, or may be foreshadowing or memory. To say more about how this culminating story unfolds would be to rob it of its power, but it is highly recommended not only for its artistry, subtlety and humanity, but also for a deep sense that there may be more at work in our lives than our own ambitions and strategies for survival. Highly recommended.


Available at Videomatica

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