Monday, May 28, 2007

Lord John Mabury Gets Freaky

I had a discount pass at the Roxie that expired on Thursday. It was a "use it or lose it" proposition so I trudged over to the Mission District to see Going Under.

Here is a tip. Many independent films do not get reviewed by the local newspaper or major media outlets. Variety is a good source of hard-to-find movie reviews. I looked up their Going Under review.

But in the end there's just not enough tension, emotional juice or narrative revelation in this portrait of two souls who flirt with borderline dangerous entanglement, yet are ultimately too intellectually removed to risk losing their heads. Despite the pushing-the-envelope theme, the pic has dull spots.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement but I had to see a film at the Roxie before Thursday. The Roxie has two screens. My alternative was The Pervert's Guide to Cinema by Slavoj Zizek. This film was my preferred choice but I missed the last showing.

The two leads in Going Under are German actress Geno Lechner and Roger Rees. Rees is best known for his portrayal of Lord John Mabury from The West Wing. Mabury provides comic relief as the lecherous and insulting British Ambassador to the Bartlett administration. Rees also played Robin Colcord on Cheers about 15 years ago. Based on those roles, I thought Rees was a comic from the Monty Python branch of English comics. As it turns out, Rees was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in London.

Cheers & The West Wing gave no indication of the lead role in Going Under. Rees plays a counselor or psychiatrist that uses the service of a dominatrix (Lechner). When Suzanne (Lechner) announces she is getting out of the business, Peter (Rees) desires a social relationship with her. The rest of the film is a series of loosely connected vignettes. Suzanne is a lesbian that is stringing along her Japanese lover. She also has a dysfunctional and strained relationship with her mother. Peter has an open marriage (he tells his wife about Suzanne). He also tries out replacements for Suzanne's professional services. Throughout the film, we see glimpses of their interactions, Suzanne and Peter keep meeting for coffee, meals, and drinks. Suzanne keeps pulling away from Peter and Peter keeps pursuing her.

I found the whole film quite boring (although I was able to stay awake). There are at least three scene of hard-core S&M. Apparently, Peter is getting a penis piercing and knows where public S&M clubs. As the review mentions, Rees is in tremendous physical condition and is not shy. Sidebar - full, frontal, male nudity seems to be a trend in independent films lately.

Specifically, I never believed Peter's descent into obsession with Suzanne. Actually, his mild-mannered persona seems out of character with his submissive/masochist sex life. Aren't the mild ones supposed to fantasize about being dominant? Suzanne never engenders a feeling stronger than slight resentment. She seems confused about her sexuality. Her lies eventually drive away her lesbian girlfriend. It's never made clear why she is on the outs with her mother.

The ending leaves the impression that Peter is still fixated Suzanne a year after their "break-up." By that point, I was anxious for the film to be finished so I was grateful the credits started rolling.

My plan is to see a film this evening that I'm more excited about - Waitress. There is a lot of backstory to the film. The director, writer, and co-star of the film, Adrienne Shelly, was murdered in November. She was killed by a construction worker after arguing about the noise from a nearby construction site.

There is a connection between Waitress and Going Under. Shelly was associated with the director Hal Hartley. She starred in his 1989 film The Unbelievable Truth. Hartley's wife is Miho Nikaido who played Suzanne's lesbian lover in Going Under.

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