Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hoarding and its discontents: Antonio Tibaldi and Alex Lora's sad doc, THY FATHER'S CHAIR

Orthodox Jewish twins, maybe identical, though it's difficult to tell under their very bushy beards and hair that seems not to have been cut in perhaps a year, Abraham and Shraga live in the Brooklyn home they've inherited from their now deceased parents. Over time, they've found it difficult to part with just about everything that most of us would consider trash -- old food to clothes, books, papers, appliances that no longer work to broken furniture. Hence the movie's title -- THY FATHER'S CHAIR -- which is brought up at one point and then promptly let go.

As directed by Alex Lora (shown at left) and Antonio Tibaldi (below) in a cinéma vérité style by which we learn nothing about the background of anything here -- except via the bits of conversation along the way between the twins and the men who come, as an intervention, to clean the apartment and who have, by film's end, pretty much emptied it out.

The head cleaning man, in fact, also turns out to be something more than mere "cleaner," as he bonds with the twins, trying his best to help them understand what is going on here and why
they need to rid themselves of so much that they've hoarded over the recent past.

As the movie's brief 74-minute running time unspools, we manage to learn quite a bit about the emotional state of the twins, shown below, one of whom is an alcoholic -- if not so much about their history. Instead, we meet their upstairs neighbor, who complains -- no doubt rightly -- about the stench coming from the apartment. And we see the several stray cats the pair has brought in to share their space. (These cats groom and keep themselves clean as cats will do -- unlike their hosts -- despite the gross conditions that surround them.)

The documentary is divided into seven chapters (and-on-the-seventh-day-god-rested, maybe?) plus an epilogue that sort of brings us up to date. But don't expect to get much more information here than the movie itself presents via its you-are-there narrative.

The interaction between the twins and their "celeaners" makes up much of the film, and it is oddly sad and even haunting to see how hard the head man tries to makes the problem clear so that our boys understand what's going on and why.

And yes, hazmat suits are worn and indeed appear quite necessary, as bedbugs are among the apartment's unwanted dwellers. One scene shows in passing the arm of one twin, utterly bitten up and scabbing over.

Slowly the apartment begins to look livable again, and just as slowly the twins appear to be maybe learning how to exist with a bit more clarity and purpose. We can hope.

After playing numerous festivals nationally and internationally, Thy Father's Chair opens this Friday, October 13, in New York City at the Village East Cinema, and in Los Angeles on October 20 at Laemmle's Music Hall 3. Click here and scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities, and theaters across the country.

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