Friday, April 11, 2014

Child's Pose and It Felt Like Love

I saw two very good films at the Roxie earlier this week.

Technically, I saw both films at the Little Roxie.  I have noticed that their film screenings do not always match their website.  Their website lists whether a film will screen in the Big Roxie or Little Roxie for a particular showtime.  As I have stated before, I try to avoid the Little Roxie for various reasons.  I can't remember which but one of the two films was scheduled to be in the Big Roxie on the website but I was sorely disappointed to see it was screening at the Little Roxie when I arrived at the box office.  This is not the first time this has happened.


Before I forget, the Roxie has posted the schedule for Elliot Lavine's 2014 edition of I Wake Up Dreaming.  I notice he has combined some pre-Code films into the mix.  For the past two or three years, Lavine has programmed a one week pre-Code film series in March as well as the two week I Wake Up Dreaming series in May.  Unless it slipped past me, there was no pre-Code series this year.  I suppose Elliot is merging the two.

The lineup looks interesting because there are so many titles I'm unfamiliar with.  Giving it the once over, I only recognize eight films I have seen before:  The Locket, Fall Guy, When Strangers Marry, The Window, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, Al Capone, While the City Sleeps and Brainstorm.  With 30 films in the lineup, that means 75% of the films are new to me.


Child's Pose starring Luminița Gheorghiu; directed by Călin Peter Netzer; Romanian with subtitles; (2013) - Official Website
It Felt Like Love starring Gina Piersant; directed by Eliza Hittman; (2013) - Official Website

Child's Pose won the Golden Bear (highest prize) at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival.

It Felt Like Love is Eliza Hittman's first feature length film.


Child's Pose is notable for the tremendous performance by Luminița Gheorghiu.  Gheorghiu plays Cornelia Keneres, a sixtysomething woman who is something to behold.  As the film starts, we see that Cornelia is part of the well-to-do set in Bucharest with important people attending her party.  She complains to her sister that her son never calls which would seem like a familiar refrain except she speaks as if she is in competition with her son's live-in girlfriend.  Cornelia's maid is also her son's maid and she bullies and bribes her into providing information about her son's life.

The film veers into more dramatic territory when we learn that Cornelia's son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) has killed a boy with his car.  Cornelia quickly springs into action.  She races to the police station where she ignores the victim's family, uses her contacts to influence the police investigation, browbeats the police detectives taking his son's statements and even instructs her son to change his initial statement.

Although Cornelia clearly loves her son, she also is one ballsy bitch that needs to control every situation.  For his part, Barbu is tired of his mother and the possibility of prison times seems less frightening than having to deal with his mother.

Over the course of the film, we learn the depth of dysfunction in the mother-son relationship although we are never told the exact cause.  Cornelia's manipulative manner is implied to have been the root cause of many of Barbu's problems - which includes a failing relationship with his girlfriend, drug abuse and other problems.

Two scenes stand out for me.  In the first, Cornelia and Barbu's girlfriend Carmen (Ilinca Goia) have as close to a heart-to-heart as Cornelia can have.  Eventually, Cornelia elicits detailed information about Carmen and Barbu's sex life.  First, it seemed peculiar for a woman and her boyfriend's mother to have such a conversation.  Second, the revelations imply that Barbu's problems with his mother have spilled over into his relationship with Carmen.  For her part, Cornelia desperate need to be close to her son has left him frustrated, emotionally stunted and angry at the world.  Still Cornelia cannot let her son go.  It is hinted, ever so slightly during a scene where Cornelia rubs ointment on her son's back, that incest is either in their history or on Cornelia's mind.

The pièce de résistance is the extended scene at the end of the film where Cornelia visits the parents of the dead boy and reveals her feelings while pleading for her son's freedom.  Cornelia has fixed things enough that if the parents will withdraw their complaint, her son will likely receive little to no punishment.  Having seen her manipulations throughout the film, the audience wonders how much of what she is saying is true.  Gheorghiu plays the scene without giving any indication of Cornelia's veracity - reinforcing how good a liar Cornelia is.

Gheorghiu's Cornelia is the type of woman you'll always be weary of but can never put your finger on exactly why she makes you feel uncomfortable.  It's a great role and a great performance and by extension a great film. 


The plot for It Felt Like Love is a little thin.  Gina Piersanti is Lila, 14 year old Brooklyn girl who spends her summer vacation hanging out with her best friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni) and her boyfriend Patrick (Jesse Cordasco).  Chiara & Patrick are quite affectionate and Chiara is very willing to speak with Lila about her sexual experiences.  With her mother dead and a strained relationship with her father, Lila is left to wonder if her lack of sexual experience is normal.

Uncomfortable at being a third wheel, Lila fixates on Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein), an older acquaintance of Chiara whom she refers to as a "total douche."  Pursuing him by stopping by his workplace and leaving behind her sunglasses as a pretext so they can meet again, Lila is more intrigued with the idea of sex than actually having sex.  Taking advantage of Sammy's drunken state, Lila claims to have had sex with Sammy although the audience knows this to be false.

Sammy is doubtful that this occurred and put off by the lie; not to mention he could be prosecuted for statutory rape if the authorities believe Lila's claim.  Lila is still not dissuaded and goes to Sammy's house to seduce or relent to him.  In a disturbing scene, Lila offers to give Sammy and his two friends fellatio.  At first, the three young men are dubious but one by one, each man pulls down his pants while Sammy kneels on the floor.  The scene cuts away so we don't know what transpired although it is implied she left without performing the act. Eventually, Lila "falls out of love" with Sammy but is left confused and frustrated by her own lack of sexual exploits.

It Felt Like Love is the summer nothing happened to Lila although she put herself in dangerous situations and spread false rumors about her own sexual escapades. Lila is a typical teenage girl.  Still a little coltish, she's definitely not a  woman but she doesn't want to be a child anymore.  Encouraged and envious of her friend's sexual experiences, Lila is anxious to move to this phase of her life but I was relieved that she didn't.

Gina Piersant gives a strong performance as Lila.  She captured the teenage angst that I recall from that age.  Perhaps it was stretch for Miss Piersant to play the awkward Lila or perhaps not.  Regardless, she conveyed a difficult period of a woman's life very effectively in It Felt Like Love.  The film was more of a mood piece than complete story.  It was a quick peek into the summer of a young girl where something life altering could have occurred but didn't.  Rather than feel disappointed by the film that didn't deliver, I felt happy for Lila which is one indicator that the film was effective - it made me care about the protagonist.

No comments: