Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sleeping Beauty (Leigh)


(Julia Leigh / 2011)

Something seems to be absent from this otherwise brilliantly constructed piece. The classical primitivism* of the compositions and the allusive nature of the structure gives the film an element of mystery that is hypnotic. Like much of contemporary cinema that explores the way we live today the central character is immeasurably frustrating, something that is underscored by the film's refusal to offer any explanation or psychological short hand to justify. Sleeping Beauty explores a dual sickness within its universe: a patriarchal society that is startlingly comfortable and a heroine who lacks all scruples or political loyalties. There may be a hidden critique of some of the Third Wave of feminism in here: a sexually liberated woman who is still in the service of male desire. The articulations of the dangers buried in the most sublime forms of domination are where this film soars. And the simplicity of the compositions are layered with glimpses of a world beyond the sex work that this girl engages in for seemingly no reason (she even burns some of the money). The constant awareness of an outside world of community forces us to assume that this totally a choice on her part. The gnawing question of why may be the film's central thesis, but even that is cast in doubt.

Still, I can't quite place what about this film strikes me as missing. As my partner put it, I'm not sure what the big 'so what?' is. Leigh is certainly a filmmaker to watch and my admiration for Sleeping Beauty has grown considerably over the days since I've watched it. As much as cop-out as this sounds, I'd like to see it once more before I feel comfortable about my feelings on it, which is something worth noting about any cinematic experience.

* I've never felt comfortable with this word, but for the sake of brevity I use it. What I mean is a style reminiscent of silent film composition with long takes in tightly framed compositions that convey a totality of information without cuts or movement. I am thinking of the styles of Roy Andersson, Manuel de Oliveira, or even Apichatpong Weerasethakul to name a few.

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