Saturday, June 04, 2005

Male Fantasy: Movie Review by Lezah

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Wednesday night we went to the Terminal City Festival at Pacific Cinematheque (Vancouver) where they were showcasing Vancouver-based movies. That night's show was 'Male Fantasy', and in some ways I was living many film and music-buff's fantasies - not only were the director/writer, Blaine Thurier (also of the band New Pornographers) and actors Robert Dayton (of the band Canned Hamm) and Shane Nelken ('musician to the stars': Blue Lodge Quartet, Tennessee Twin, A. C. Newman, The Buzzards, Vancouver Nights, The Come-ons, Sparrow) available afterward for Q & A, but we also ended up going out for drinks with them after the show.

Talk of the movie, music, acting, and a variety of other topics somehow led, at one point, to talk of smoking - or rather, quitting smoking. It turns out that both Thurier and Nelken were surprised to discover that each had quit smoking about six years ago, and both did it by going 'cold turkey'. Thurier talked of taking the phrase, "it's hard to quit smoking" and turning it around, so his new mantra became, "it's fun and easy to quit smoking". Perhaps he was being facetious, but maybe not - years later, he writes a character for a film who uses a similar mantra in an attempt to change his own life.

In 'Male Fantasy', Andrew (Robert Dayton) is a recently divorced guy, rapidly approaching middle age; he is unhappy with where he is in life, but one day has a revelation. In the opening shot of the film, we see him repeating his new mantra over and over: "I am a god. I create this reality." Of course, typical of many middle-aged, divorced males, Andrew's perfect reality revolves around picking up and having sex with as many women as he can. (Oh, sorry, do I sound a bit cynical there?) Anyway, in a classic man-vs-himself conflict, Andrew is completely (and pathetically) unable to make this goal a reality - he lacks any social skills and has little to offer women.

We see him desperately approaching women on the street - any women - and offering to take them out - “Are you doing anything right now? Can I buy you a coffee? Would you like to come to my place?” But these women are obviously much smarter than this: Andrew is told in no uncertain terms to get lost (but not exactly in those words!).

When his friend Jay gives him some advice about picking up women (go for the 'sick, hobbled gazelle separated from the pack'), Andrew achieves a measure of success, and then Jay ups the stakes: he offers Andrew the opportunity to participate in a pornographic piece he is filming, which he prefers to think of as 'art' - a 'verite' piece. Whatever.

I cannot help but compare this film to 'Sideways'. Since filming for 'Male Fantasy' wrapped in spring of 2004, neither filmed influenced the other, but the parallels in subject matter and characters are obvious - some might even say eerie.

However, whereas I did not like 'Sideways', I really enjoyed 'Male Fantasy': it was both sad and funny, and while Male Fantasy's protagonist Andrew, like the protagonist Miles in 'Sideways', was a pathetic, annoying and somewhat delusional individual at the outset, Andrew was someone I grew to sympathize with and even root for as the film progressed - unlike Miles (from 'Sideways') whom I disliked just as intensely at the end of the film as I had at the beginning.

Typical of many independent films shot on a tight budget, 'Male Fantasy' is a bit grainy, a bit dark, a bit out of focus at times. But this just adds to the mood, and typifies the reality of Andrew's world.

According to Thurier, the film does not have a distributor - it opened at South-by-Southwest (2004) and has since made the rounds of most of the film festivals. So, unless you're lucky, your chances of seeing this one in a theatre near you at any time soon are slim-to-none: but trust me when I say, this film is a future cult classic. Years from now, it'll be popping up in art houses and late at night on the small screen. Mark my words!

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