Tidings of discomfort
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,