Friday, May 4, 2018

Unmade Beds

Twenty-something East London: we’re introduced first to footloose Axl (Fernando Tielve), looking like a younger, sweeter Jack White under a mop of unruly black hair, who’s come from Madrid to seek out the father he never knew. In between drunken evenings he cannot remember, he thinks he finds dad in an estate agent’s (a finely relaxed performance from Richard Lintern) and builds a cautiously friendly relationship whilst remaining ambivalent about revealing his identity. Meanwhile, Vera from Belgium (Déborah François) and a young Dutchman (Michiel Huisman) start a hesitant relationship in which they retreat to hotel rooms and fix their meetings time by time, without exchanging phone numbers or even names.

All this is set against the backdrop of the art school-inflected East London scene, revolving around a live music venue and a warehouse squat where Axl and Vera both live, without being aware of one another until the end. It’s the kind of place where you can wake up one morning to find a music video being shot with people in giant woodland creature outfits; someone will pick up a polaroid and say “hey, this’d make a great image for a poster” (and then actually do it); and no-one knows quite who else is living there until they get drunk together.

It is a carefree existence, and the film settles into a rhythm of drinking, dancing, and coupling that risks becoming a little tiresome, even if an accurate reflection of the way of life; similarly, dos Santos rather over-indulges his aspirations to fleetingly glimpsed mundane-abstract beauty (Nan Goldin and In The Mood For Love are confessed inspirations), and the surrounding material is not incisive enough to support such whimsy. That said, he is greatly helped by solid photography from Jakob Ihre and, particularly when François is involved, achieves some moments of real intimacy between characters.

Unfortunately, this is quite dissipated when Vera’s relationship is diverted to voiceover, even if Huisman nicely pulls off their happy ending. The finale to Axl’s strand on the other hand is rather lame, but the whole live-for-the-moment mid-twenties feeling and the vibrant freewheeling milieu are so accurately evoked that bursts of self-indulgence, lack of momentum, and occasional gauchery seem entirely appropriate.

d Alexis Dos Santos p Peter Ettedgui, Bertrand Faivre, Soledad Gatti-Pascual sc Alexis Dos Santos, Marianela Maldonado ph Jakob Ihre ed Olivier Bugge Coutté pd Kristian Milsted cast Fernando Tielve, Déborah François, Michiel Huisman, Iddo Goldberg, Richard Lintern, Katia Winter, Alexis Dos Santos
(UK, 2009, 97m)

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