Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stella Schnabel shimmers & shakes us up in Ry Russo-Young's YOU WON'T MISS ME

Stella Schnabel (on poster, left) has real screen presence; as you watch her, you know there's something going on. She attracts you, maybe turns you on (and then turns you off), but she holds you -- through some awfully low-wattage movie-making via director/co-writer (with Ms Schnabel) Ry Russo-Young (shown below). Schnabel isn't beautiful, exactly, but she can be alluring, attractive and appealing -- even as she pushes you away, sometimes in rather nasty fashion.

Initially, particularly in her dealings with young men, she appears so needy -- something like a punk, East Village version of Tanna Frederick (without that bright red mane) -- that were she not so oddly endearing, you'd likely be running for the nearest exit.

In YOU WONT MISS ME, Ms Russo-Young's new film, the actress plays a young woman fresh out of a mental institution, whose grasp on reality does seem a tad tenuous. At times, at least. At other moments, she appears surprisingly strong, even if that strength turns out to be but a knee-jerk reaction to her own many and deep fears.

If only Schnabel, together with her co-writer/director, had given herself a real movie in which to star. This is, once again, a kind of mumblecore. (Look at some of the faces briefly glimpsed here; they belong to the likes of Joe SwanbergAaron KatzGreta Gerwig and Barlow Jacobs.) Though the lead character is so full of anger, you might re-jigger the genre to rage-core. And, as in too many of these "core" movies, the filmmaker seems to imagine that all we need to do is simply lift the camera and point it. Life will take care of the rest. If only. Good movie-making entails choice. What should we show the audience to help them understand this girl? How do we shape what we show into something that flows and builds?  Unless of course we have no interest in any of that old-fashioned means of moviemaking.

Well, then: Let's make our character a would-be actress. That way we can show an audition. And another. All of which is marginally interesting but doesn't go anywhere. OK: Let's throw in a "mommie" problem and see if that sticks. Not so much. While this may be real, it's not good enough to fill the 81-minute length. Tom Hall at Indiewire has called the movie "a living, breathing demonstration of pure cinema."  Hmmm?  Then gimme some impurities.

In order to become acquainted with the work of Misses Schnabel and Russo-Young, I'm happy to have seen this film, but overall, the movie seems quite slight, even though it deals with a young woman who has major problems. Content-wise, character-wise, this simply does not compute.
You Won't Miss Me, from Factory 25, opens Friday, December 10, in New York City at the Cinema Village, and the following Friday, Dec. 17 in Chicago at Facets. It will then play February 2 and 3, 2011, at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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