Plato in the Park
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
The most imaginative narrative film in the last two years? Better middle-aged romance than Something's Gotta Give and Must Love Dogs? YES!
In Yes, Sally Potter, having established herself as not one of the usual directing boys with her wildly creative Orlando, has her characters speak in iambic pentameter, which, if I remember my English literature classes well enough, was the style used by Shakespeare because it approximates ordinary speech.
Why use iambic pentameter in a contemporary film? Actually, if it weren't for the rhyming, most of us would not identify the meter beyond just beautiful cadence by professional actors. But because this is an intricate tale of a mature woman in a lifeless marriage finding a man who gives her a reason to be happy, the meter adds grace and elegance to what neo-cons could label as "sin." The arguments about the beauty of life and the human body, along with a maid discoursing on dirt, are made to sound like philosophical discourse by Plato at his nearest park.
When Allen's "She" discovers through her aunt that we want our whole lives "things we don't need," the film takes another direction from love to a communistic conclusion about wealth, in Cuba no less. That's what's exciting about Potter's agenda: She seems to have so many thoughts about birth, love, and death that the film bursts with the energy of a first date with an interesting, very verbal, very sensual human being. When "She" has her date in a restaurant, "He," her new love, stimulates her under the table in an almost elegant takeoff on the "Harry Meets Sally" scream.
That "She' was born in Belfast and "He" in Beirut is Potter's way of universalizing the clashes our culture seems to proliferate these days. The director could be faulted for trying too much, for being too heavy handed in her metaphors, but better that overreaching than no reaching at all.
What Potter's aim is with the maid who comments to the audience about the universe of microbes beneath a seemingly clean sheet is a challenge, as are the multiple times service people such as cooks and waiters address us. I suspect Potter is emphasizing the need to pay attention to the little things of life, including marginal workers. Indeed, at one point the need to live each moment fully stands front and center. I can agree with that.
The eternal "Yea" overcomes the "Nea."
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com