Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Suspicious River (Lynne Stopkewich, 2000)

The last time director Lynne Stopkewich and star Molly Parker collaborated, it was the 1996 film Kissed, which I had decidedly mixed feelings about. While I liked that it was an exploration of alternative female sexuality, I didn't like much else about it. Suspicious River is a decided improvement over that film. It's as if the protagonist of Kissed grew up, stopped having sex with corpses, but stayed in the same depressing town and somehow ended up in a depressing marriage. Parker plays Leila, motel clerk in Suspicious River who has a boring, repetitive life. While she seems like a smart, bright woman, she moves aimlessly from unskilled job to unskilled job. She stands behind the desk at this small, deserted motel, doing nothing all day, then goes home to her neglectful, anorexic husband who is no longer interested in sex.

All that changes until one day when a motel customer comes onto her, and she goes to his room. Not only does she give him oral sex, she demands money for it. He tells some of his friends, and soon, Leila has more or less a second job. There's one scene in particular where Leila walks out of a motel room and it suddenly hits her that she's a prostitute. But no moral judgements are made on her -- Leila does it because she's sexually unfulfilled, bored, and self-destructive. That's just what it is. But one man sticks out among others, and she begins a Belle de Jour-esque affair with one of her clients. But this is a movie that is better the less you know (thanks, Netflix, for one of the most revealing plot descriptions ever), but things don't go well.

Both Stopkewich and Parker matured greatly in the 4 years between their two collaborations, and it shows. The direction is often achingly beautiful, and Parker really gives a tour de force performance. Why this film isn't more revered in independent circles, not to mention as a fine piece of feminist filmmaking, is beyond me. By the way, does anyone know why Lynne Stopkewich apparently isn't directing features anymore? It's sad to lose a distinctively talented female directing voice. This film is certainly recommended, even despite the ending that's not up to the level of the rest of the movie.


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