Tid­ings of dis­com­fort

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Jen­nifer Levin For The New Mex­i­can

Lovely, Still is a movie with a se­cret. To re­ally get at the heart of this film, I’d have to tell you the se­cret, but that would ruin the ex­pe­ri­ence of view­ing this in­trigu­ing de­but by Ni­cholas Fack­ler. I could lead you to be­lieve that the film is noth­ing but a sweet, al­beit off­beat, ro­man­tic com­edy about two older peo­ple, but that would be a se­ri­ous dis­tor­tion of the facts. The shadow of some­thing large and likely sin­is­ter hov­ers over each frame of this film, from the moment we open on Over­ture Street, where ev­ery house is lit for Christ­mas.

Robert Malone, played with charm and depth by Martin Landau, lives alone. His house is de­void of fam­ily life: his walls are pocked with empty pic­ture hooks, and he doesn’t have much fur­ni­ture. The light, how­ever, is warm as we en­ter his liv­ing room, where he is af­fix­ing a gift tag to a wrapped box: “To Robert, from Robert.” It’s the only present un­der the dec­o­rated Christ­mas tree.

Landau sags sad and tired in Robert’s skin. Ev­ery move he makes seems rote yet some­how noble for the force of psy­chic will and phys­i­cal ef­fort it re­quires. His dream­scapes are painterly reds and blues, fir­ing synapses, frag­ments of im­ages and sound. He wakes each day be­wil­dered and then re­signed to be­ing alive still. Fack­ler shows us Robert’s morn­ing ablu­tions through a forced per­spec­tive in which we be­come his mir­ror. He flosses, brushes, gar­gles, shaves, and slicks back his thin white hair with his hands. When he leaves his house to walk to his job at a gro­cery store, he is so dis­tracted by the sight of a mov­ing van across the street that he for­gets to shut his front door.

Ihol­i­day fa­ble, rated PG, CCA Cine­math­eque,

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