Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sci-fi/romance/meditation: The brilliant PERFECT SENSE is a best-yet for Mackenzie

The most thrilling thing about this job (other than it pays no money) involves sitting down one evening in front of your widescreen monitor and placing a screener of a new film, which you know almost nothing about, into your Blu-ray player, pressing "play" and... omigod, finding yourself fucking blown away. Excuse the French, fans, but that was my experience this past Sunday evening as we watched PERFECT SENSE, the latest from Brit filmmaker David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Asylum, Mister Foe and, yes, Spread). Written by Kim Fupz Aakeson -- the Danish screenwriter whose best-known films over here are probably last year's A Somewhat Gentle Man and Soap (from 2006) -- the movie works brilliantly as science fiction, love story, and meditation/
philosophy on how resilient we human beings can be in the face of one devastating loss after another.

This movie surprised me, scared me, moved me, entertained me and made me think, feel and (very occasionally) smile. How much better does it get? (There is not a lot of humor here; look elsewhere if you must have that.) I don't want to say too much about the film's plot, as part of the joy of this experience is discovery. Ewan McGregor (above, right) plays a chef who can fuck -- quite well, it would seem -- any number of ladies but must always sleep solo, while Eva Green (above, left) is an epidemiologist with problems of her own. When an outbreak of heavy-duty sorrow, followed by the loss of the ability to smell, infects people around the globe, these two meet and slowly bond, as the world (as they've known it) begins to change rather hugely.

We see this change mirrored in the lives of our twosome, as well as in clips from various spots around the globe, and perhaps the smartest move of the filmmakers was to shoot short segments on various continents -- Asia, Africa and the like -- and then to place these carefully, cleverly into their film. Using old (or even new) newsreel footage would not have worked nearly as well, because that non-specific footage of course would not include what is happening to the world under this particular scenario -- which is nothing like anything that has happened before.

MacKenzie -- pictured above, looking out the window of what, I believe, is the apart-ment of our hero in the film -- has managed some truly adroit genre-jumping in this movie. He, together with Mr. Aakeson, makes the mystery of what is happening both exciting and suspenseful -- better yet, believable, in a way that many bigger-budget films do not manage -- building ever more quickly and sadly toward the inevitable. Yet because he has cast the film so well, using some of his regulars like McGregor and Ewen Bremner (at right, in the photo above)the characters easily pull us into their lives, so that the romance of the movie demands as much caring and attention from us as does the sci-fi plot. This is a balancing act your rarely see accomplished this well.

Casting McGregor and Ms Green was particularly fortuitous because these two are such beautiful people, with gorgeous bodies and warm, open faces, as comfortable unclothed as clothed (McGregor's package is on display again, though not nearly as fully as in Young Adam or The Pillow Book). As the troubled lovers who center the film, these two are also good enough in the acting department to make us care about their relationship -- which finally stands for whatever love is left alive in this dying world.

I'm not going to say more about the film -- except see it, and deal with it. It may remind you, on one hand, of a movie such as the delicate and lovely The Five Senses or maybe that still-the-best-end-of-the-world work, Last Night (both via Canada) and on the other something like Blindness but raised to the nth power. I hesitate to compare it to Never Let Me Go, since so many people I know loathed that movie for its darkness and despair (I loved it for its overpowering humanity). Perfect Sense is not as political as Never Let Me Go, in which the "haves" demand everything, including the final sacrifice, from the "have-nots." But because Perfect Sense exists to make us think about and care for civilization, it is also a most humane and wonderful film.

From IFC Films, Perfect Sense opens this Friday, February 3, in New York City at IFC Center, and elsewhere I hope. It can also currently be seen on IFC's In Theaters & On-Demand program. Click here to learn how to view the movie via VOD.

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