Film Analysis | Film Reviews

The Gypsy, the Composer, and the Brother

1 Jul , 2001  

Written by Chris Cooke | Posted by:

A review of the film 'Dischord,' written and directed by Mark Wilkinson and premiering at the Woods Hole Film Festival

Families have often proven ripe for artistic plunder. To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy families are all alike (in other words, equally boring), but unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way (and thus make great story material). With "Dischord," writer/director Mark Wilkinson mines the familial landscape and unearths a rough-hewn gem.

"Dischord" centers on the awkward marriage of new age musicians Lucien (Andrew Borba) and his fame-averse wife, the aptly named Gypsy (Annunziata Gianzero). She’s the free spirit of the marriage, always dreaming of flying through clouds; uptight Lucian just wants a little peace and quiet so he can focus on his compositions. The couple has managed to fuse their contrasting instincts to produce a slew of top-selling albums, all under his name. Now, as they go their separate musical ways, both find themselves creatively paralyzed. Gypsy flees the business in disgust, disappearing on the eve of a major tour, and Lucien, unable to ignore the constant rumors that Gypsy is the superior composer, struggles to write even a note.

Things get complicated (and, frankly, much more interesting) when Lucien’s long-lost brother Jimmy (Thomas Jay Ryan) shows up. Jimmy is an aimless drifter, unstable to the point of danger. He arrives in mysterious circumstances and immediately imposes himself between Lucien and Gypsy. Jimmy, frustrated and flighty, seems an amalgamation of the couple’s worst traits (or perhaps their best traits, but in the worst possible way), plus a few of his own. He bonds with Gypsy almost immediately in unified rebellion against Lucien’s crabbiness.

Fluttering around the action are a soothsaying beachcomber (Rick Wessler) and a retired policeman, Detective Dunbarton (Dick Bakalyan), who decides to poke around when he hears of the discovery of a murdered woman at a local beach. Dunbarton’s search to find the killer becomes a major focus of the film. You see, Jimmy has bludgeoned his girlfriend to death and dumped her into a tidewater river. Dunbarton’s inquiries lead him first to the girlfriend’s Boston apartment, and then south to Lucien’s house on the Cape, where the relationship between our three friends seems tenuous, on the verge of collapse. It has become clear that Gypsy loves a good story, truth be damned, while Jimmy has unresolved issues about dishonesty, especially in women. And Jimmy seems a bit too enamored with his brother’s wife for anyone’s good.

In much the same way as filmmaker Atom Egoyan and other contemporaries, Wilkinson uses a combination of brief, hallucinatory flashbacks and extensive shifts in chronology to unsettle viewers as he draws them in, unearthing more of his characters with each backward turn of the clock. It is a powerful technique, and Wilkinson handles it deftly here. Thematically, the two main conflicts — Gypsy’s and Lucien’s contrasting artistic philosophies and Jimmy’s struggles with his obsessions — don’t quite form a coherent whole. But the plot moves along nicely all the same. Wilkinson has quite a tale to tell, and it grabs hold right from the start.

Although the characters can be a bit grating at times, they are grating in the name of a good story, and the actors all carry their weight. Lucien is likeable in spite of his cranky, analytical attitude and Gypsy’s good-hearted sincerity is admirable, despite the annoying head-in-the-clouds form it often takes. The real treasure here is Jimmy who, until his inevitable flirtation with psycho-killer cliché, emerges as a potent mixture of aggression and insecurity, at odds with his past and his demons. His unbridled glee while running along the beach with Gypsy, ecstatic from the sun and wind and waves, is gut-wrenching to behold, knowing that beneath his happiness lies desperation, something dark and consuming. At that moment, he is both beautiful and horrifying, like the sea, vibrant with life yet so well acquainted with death.

‘Dischord’ premiers at the Woods Hole Film Festival, and it’s worth the trip. For more information on ‘Dischord’ visit http://www.dischordthemovie.com. For more information on the festival, visit http://www.woodsholefilmfestival.org.


'Dischord' premiers at the Woods Hole Film Festival, and it’s worth the trip. For more information on 'Dischord' visit http://www.dischordthemovie.com. For more information on the festival, visit http://www.woodsholefilmfestival.org.