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[personal profile] alexxkay
What a delightfully odd film! When I first read the Netflix summary, I thought it contained grammar errors. But no, it was merely a case of trying to describe an extremely convoluted structure in a small number of words. Luckily, I have no such space restriction here.

The film takes place on three separate levels of “reality”, and frequently zooms in or out between them. Each individual level is relatively straightforward, but the shifts between them, and their thematic resonances, is where the meat of the film is to be found.

A) This level is, at least at first, a live-action sex comedy. By day, Emma works in a factory that makes sex dolls. By night, she draws a graphic novel about her dream man, a sexy movie director named Edward. Constantly surrounded by artificially perfect bodies, Emma is insecure about her own smallish breasts. Can she raise the money for plastic surgery? And if she does, how will her life change?

B) This level is, for the most part, rotoscoped hand-drawn animation. Edward is a hot young film director coming off a streak of successful action movies. Now, he wants to make a more personal, artistic kind of film, about a model/writer named Michelle. The studio, of course, wants something more commercial, and his sycophantic codirector is not actually helping. Edward’s normal means of dealing with troubles – seduction – works well at first. But then he suffers a horrifying (/hilarious) diminution of his sexual potence, and flails about desperately trying to regain control.

C) This level is live-action, but with lots of fancy European camera angles and washed-out romantic lighting filters. Michelle is a dropdead gorgeous model. But what she REALLY wants is to be a writer. She has already written several chapters of a novel about Emma, a neurotic woman who works in a sex doll factory. A chance encounter with a publisher encourages her to pursue her writing, but her conventionally handsome boyfriend scoffs at the notion. She flees to a tiny seaside town in Brazil to find the peace to complete her novel – and perhaps, something more… (The Portuguese dialogue is not subtitled, but I had no trouble following the gist.)

Since A creates B, B creates C, and C creates A, no single level is privileged as any more “real” than the other two. Or any less, for that matter. The three levels affect each other more and more over the course of the film, until the “zooming” is almost continuous. A review I read afterward drew an apt comparison to the work of Charlie Kaufman; the meta is strong in this one.

Thankfully, there was more than just structural cleverness there, too. The three protagonists are extremely different people, yet their problems resonate. Each of them is unhappy with how their physical body (and its perceived sexuality) dominates their personal and professional interactions; each tries a variety of strategies to change how other people perceive their sexuality. Do they find happiness? That would be telling…

It’s not a perfect film, but by God, it’s definitely new and different. If you’re in the mood for something entertaining, yet challenging, I recommend it.
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Alexx Kay

October 2017

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