Dir/scr: LodgeKerrigan. US. 2004. 90mins.
After a hiatusof six years following his not very well-received second film Claire Dolan,American independent director Lodge Kerrigan is back with Keane, an intense tale of obsession that recalls the triumph of hisdebut film, Clean, Shaven (1993).
Like that earlierfilm, Keane focuses relentlessly andclaustrophobically on a single man who seems to be at the mercy of a powerfulcase of paranoid schizophrenia, but while the new film has its moments, it doesnot measure up to the standards set by his earliest success. Commercialprospects in all but the most rarefied of art house markets seem slim.
When the filmopens, William Keane (Lewis, a British stage actor best known for his role inHBO's Band Of Brothers) is searching wildly through the seamier parts ofNew York City, most notably, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, for hissix-year-old daughter, who was abducted there six months earlier.
The first thirtyminutes of the film are devoted to following William in extreme close-up with ahand-held camera using only available light, as he snorts cocaine, drinks beer,and has sex with a woman in a club's men's room. It's as though theinterminable close-ups are meant to represent his own isolation, and thepsychological and emotional pain he's going through is vividly conveyed.
After a while,once we learn incidentally that William is on disability, we begin to suspectthat maybe he is simply in the grip of full-blown mental illness. But, forbetter or worse, we never know for sure.
After a while,William meets Lynn (Ryan) and her young daughter Kira (Breslin) in thetransient hotel in which he lives and, not surprisingly, is drawn to them. Theaudience breathes a sigh of relief as Kerrigan's obsessively focused camera finallybegins to open up to include these other two figures.
This is by farthe strongest and most disturbing part of the movie, for we don't really knowhis intentions, especially once he begins to bond with Kira, picking her upfrom school and taking her to McDonalds. The happiness Kira feels when Williamtakes her ice skating for the first time is wonderfully captured, but tinged,for the audience, with dread of what he might do next.
In an especiallypowerful scene, William begins to have a breakdown in a bowling alley and it isseven-year-old Kira who rescues him and lovingly brings him back to earth. WhenLynn informs William that she and Kira will shortly be moving and leaving himbehind, he decides to act.
Throughout thefilm, Kerrigan plays an elaborate and tension-filled game with our expectationsand fears, because we really don't ever know exactly what's going on. But whilethis may work on a vague psychologically level, it also keeps us from gleaningany larger meaning about life or even a deeper understanding about thecharacter.
It's a troublingsign that this talented director has made only a trio of very modestly fundedfilms in the last fifteen years, and that his own biographical sketch isstrangely missing from the press materials that inform us about everyone else,even devoting a full page to executive producer Steven Soderbergh. It's to behoped that now that he's back in action, Kerrigan's work will only continue tostrengthen.
Prod co: Studio Fierberg, Populist Pictures
Prods: Steven Soderbergh,Andrew Fierberg
Cine: John Foster
Ed: Andrew Hafitz
Prod des: Petra Barchi
Main cast: DamianLewis, Amy Ryan, Abigail Breslin