Screened at Sundance (Dramatic Competition). Dir: Henry Barrial. US. 2001. 80mins.
Henry Barrial's Some Body is an admirable example of how a low-budget production, shot on digital video, can also be a dramatically satisfying movie. Much of the credit for that should go to Stephanie Bennett, the lead actress who also co-wrote and co-produced the film; her fully rounded portrayal of a young schoolteacher looking for love in Los Angeles is affectingly convincing and adds a dimension of reality to the proceedings that is only reinforced by the digital video aesthetic. The central issue of female promiscuity, which is rarely looked at in film and certainly never this frankly, will certainly be familiar to audiences around the world. And although no domestic distributor has yet to pick Some Body up, it should build buzz as it traverses the international festival circuit and persuade buyers that this is more just another self-absorbed mockumentary.
Bennett plays vivacious schoolteacher Samantha who, one hungover morning, breaks it off with her boyfriend of seven years (Guillory). She moves out of their apartment, finds her own place and embarks on a single life of casual sex, booze and drugs. Although such a lifestyle, told here in an episodic format, fails to provide her with either the man or the fulfillment she craves, Samantha does at least come to some telling self-realisations.
In a contemporary echo of the 1977 film Looking For Mr Goodbar, but without that film's moral heavy-handedness or conclusive ending, Some Body raises provocative questions about today's sexual and social mores. It challenges viewers to judge Samantha, while never doing so itself. Bennett's character is a familiar figure in 21st century society - the single thirtysomething woman torn between her desire for a relationship and children and her need for personal accomplishment and sexual satisfaction. The resulting insights into the so-called equality between men and women are startling, funny and painful.
Unnecessarily, however, the film also adopts a pseudo-documentary format, which the film-makers insert as if to justify the cheap look of the whole thing. That the characters talk to camera to explain themselves is a distraction from an otherwise fluid narrative in which their thoughts and motives are clear enough as it is. Films shot on digital video - as the Dogme films and Dancer In The Dark have already shown - no longer need to spend such time justifying their cinematic status. Give the audience a compelling story, and it soon forgets the difference between video and celluloid.
Prod cos: Next Wave Films, Rhythm Films, Cubano Films. World sales: Next Wave Films. Exec prod: Peter Broderick. Prods: Henry Barrial, Stephanie Bennett, Geoffrey Pepos. Scr: Barrial, Bennett. Cinematography: Pepos. Ed: Pepos. Mus: Pepos. Main cast: Stephanie Bennett, Jeramy Guillory, Billy Ray Gallion, Tom Vitorino, Laura Katz.