Dir/scr: Sally Potter.UK-US. 2004. 99mins.

Sally Potter can never beaccused of avoiding risks. From the magnificent Orlando on down, she hassought to push back the borders of 'acceptable' film practice, allthe while engaging herself autobiographically in the most contentious socialand political issues of the day.

That noteworthy and welcometradition continues with the grand, if ultimately failed, experiment of Yes,an excellent vehicle for a resplendent Joan Allen. By the way, its dialogue, believe it or not, is in verse.

In an era of superficial andincreasingly vulgar cinematic expression, even in so-called 'art'films, it is a pleasure to see a movie that openly strives to make its audiencethink.

Nevertheless, while Sally Potter is, mercifully, notactually present on screen (unlike in the self-indulgent, narcissistic TangoLesson), the film is so ambitious in scope, both thematically and formally,that it ultimately collapses under its own weight. Still, it is in its own waya magnificent failure, and is sure to divide art-house aficionados around theworld.

As is typical for Potter,the film's focus is relentlessly on the female character. In fact, one of the greatest pleasures of Yes is seeing Joan Allen playing agorgeous sexual being, with long cascading hair. The image of her having aclandestine orgasm in a restaurant should forever erase the brittle frigidityof her roles as Pat Nixon in Oliver Stone's biography of the American presidentand the kleptomaniac wife of The Ice Storm.

In Yes she is unhappily married to a politician (Neill) and allowsherself to be seduced by a dashing Lebanese cook (Abkarian), with the usualcomplications.

If Potter had contentedherself with delineating the intricate contours of marriage and infidelity, thefilm might have been more successful.As it is, she seems bent on having her say (in verse) about everythingunder the sun, from the tiniest mote inhabiting our pillowcases, which onlyseem to be clean, to the outer galaxies.

Much of this philosophisingcomes out of the mouth of the married couple's maid (Henderson), and her directaddress to the camera seems as if it will never end.

We also hear about theforeign Other seen from the point of view of the Westerner, and a teenage girlis given a feminist lecture about unhealthily focusing on her body, but neithertopic is developed quite enough to make a coherent impression.

At one point, the Allencharacter (never named) even begins, via a digital camera, to debate with Godabout His or Her existence, and it's just way too much. In any case, Pottercan't be accused of being overcautious.

The verse, amusing at first,begins after a while to seem obsessive and mannered, like that of another nobleexperiment along the same lines, Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho.

Alexei Rodionov's visuallyexperimental images, as well, initially seem fresh and delicate and then beginto wear thin.

Still, though Potter weakensat the end by giving the audience what it undoubtedly wants story-wise, she isto be congratulated for the immense nerve of her most unconventional technique.

Prod cos: Adventure Pictures, GreeneStreet Films, StudioFierberg, UK Film Council
Int'l sales:
GreeneStreet Films
Exec prods:
John Penotti, PaulTrijbits, Fisher Stevens, Cedric Jeanson
Christopher Sheppard, Andrew Fierberg
Alexei Rodionov
Prod des: Carlos Conti
Daniel Goddard
Sally Potter
Main cast:
Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Sam Neill, ShirleyHenderson