Film Analysis | Film Reviews

Films with a View

1 Feb , 2003  

Written by Chris Cooke | Posted by:

Chris Cooke reviews some of the films at this year's Director's View Film Festival -- 'Group,' 'The Book and the Rose,' and others.


"Group," a film by Anne de Marcken and Marilyn Freeman, tracks eight women and one therapist as they struggle together through 21 weeks of group therapy. De Marcken and Freeman hashed our four drafts before tossing the script, deciding instead to work with the actors individually to create a personality and history for each character, as well as a 21-week storyline covering the time the therapy takes place. The result is a fascinating, compelling film.

As can be expected in a therapy session, the women at times confess their troubles and react with compassion. But far more often, they fight. Arguments spring up from the first few seconds the women are seated in a circle. As can be expected in any group, certain personalities begin to dominate. Among those that play a prominent role here are Pipi (Nomy Lamm) a queer, punk amputee, cancer and rape survivor; conservative, middle-aged Violet (Vicki Hollenberg); brusque and sarcastic Rita (Lola Rock n’ Rolla), a New Yorker trapped in the boring West coast; Clansey (Tony Wilkerson), a devout Christian engaged to a paraplegic; and Grace (Carrie Brownstein, of critically acclaimed punk-rock trio Sleater Kinney), whose close relationship with her father is shattered when he has an affair with a high school girl. Some of the women share much of themselves, and others dominate the discussion without revealing too much. And all the actors’ performances are excellent.

The filming technique creates an immediacy rare in film. Six cameras are used, filming without retakes or overdubs. And the screen is split into six panes, one for each camera. Cameras veer and drift into view, occasionally in tense situations, never explained but ever present. The six-way-screen allows the filmmakers to show both speakers and listeners, displaying a wide range of emotions at any given point. And the effect draws you into the sessions, as if you were an actual participant.

True to real life, the film doesn’t offer any easy resolutions. Many of the characters lives are as much in shambles at the film’s conclusion as at its start. But you and the women have shared an exhausting and enriching experience. "Group" is truly a unique film. Not to be missed.

"The Book and the Rose"

Sometimes it pays to track down just the right copy of Anna Karenina. The 30-minute short film "The Book and the Rose" tells a good old-fashioned love story, with an unusual twist. It goes something like this: Guy buys used book, guy reads book, guy reads notes written in margins by previous owner, guy is curious about women who wrote the notes, begins an exchange of letters between them. Love blossoms between two like minds.

With all the action happening in the margins, and the characters speaking only via pen and paper, director Jeff Bemiss risks submitting his viewers to ponderous under-stimulation. How exciting can it be to watch a guy read? But the film moves surprisingly quick. Set in 1942, enough is happening in the background to keep things lively. Our handsome hero is drafted, ordered to report to basic training. Afterwards, all recruits are given three days leave before shipping out overseas. John knows his only chance to meet Sarah is now.

In the crudest sense, the film’s suspense hinges on whether or not she’ll turn out to be hideously ugly or fat or old. He has never even seen her picture. But more important is how he will react. So what’s the conclusion? I won’t give anything away.


Other films featured at the Director’s View Film Festival include John Plausse’s short "Bravo, Giorgio!" about the a young man’s trip to the barber with his grandfather and Mark Anthony Galuzzo’s feature-length "R.S.V.P.," a slick, trying-hard-to-be-cool tale about a bunch of students at a party, one of whom is obsessed with the idea of becoming a famous serial killer — and his buddies are the intended victims. The festival runes February 13-17 at various locations in Stamford and South Norwalk, Connecticut.

The 2003 Director’s View Film Festival takes place February 13-17, 2003 in Stamford, CT. For more information, see

The 2003 Director’s View Film Festival takes place February 13-17, 2003 in Stamford, CT. For more information, see