Sunday, January 19, 2014

ENG 282 1st Week: Responses to An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012)

Michael Benton:

Literally blew my mind. Changed the way I think about films and filmmaking. Expanded my conception of storytelling and narrative. Revised my philosophical understanding of time experienced through relationships (or is that vice versa). I'm going to screen it again tomorrow for my students.

Patrick Reynolds:

First time attempting to review any film, but certainly one as creative and complicated as this. Complex for a neophyte like me, but certainly sense the passion with which it was done. Incredible how complicated with such simple technology. Brought long forgotten feelings/emotions to the forefront for me - these were expressed in a very unique but identifiable way ( e.g. "I would never go anywhere, but I am shrinking"). Certainly expanded my conception of what films can be. Would like to see it again. I sense the birth of an entirely new area of artistic appreciation in my life... One last thought: the use of animation was interesting; like much of the rest of the film, it went a direction I didn't expect.

Michael Benton response to Patrick Reynolds:

I'm listening to this song as I write this:

a re-interpretation by Sonic Youth of the tragic song by The Carpenters called "Superstar" (you need to know the fate of Karen Carpenter to understand the depth of this tribute). It is a part of my youth and reminds me of people that I have lost as I grow older. I've listened to it four times now because it is bringing up memories of then/now, people/places. dreams/desires, past/future, and it all flits through my consciousness and I attempt to hold on, but like Ulysses in the land of shades it is but a temporary visit with what is now lost, but still the promise of what will be beckons. Likewise this film, a film I have been struggling with, trying to think about and somehow your response unleashed another piece of my attempt to understand why it moves me so ... or perhaps it is slipping away again..........

Ebony Angel:

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty begins by asking a seemingly uncomplicated question, “How would you feel?” The question doesn’t mean much in the first five to ten minutes of the film, however, by the 85’th to 90’th minute the question has been transformed into something of an emotionally loaded accusation/appeal for empathy.

Terence Nance, the main character/director of this film, artfully (literally; drawings, animations, and stop motion clips are incorporated throughout the film) transforms the question (“How would you feel?”) by unraveling the psychological experience of a relationship and its uncomfortable ending . . . an experience most of us undergo, yet often deal with silently and in our own respective ways; typically simplifying and describing the ending/experience as cut, dry, and past-tense to others - if discussed at all.

Nance, instead, takes his relationship and its conclusion and shares it with the viewer in all of its messy, disorienting, painful, selfish, complex, and irrational glory – which is how the experience of a meaningful relationship actually is. Throughout the film repetition of scenes, phrases, and camera angles are used to relay how memories can haunt, even long after the relationship/feelings/situations have changed. The moments cherished most are remembered longest . . . in his case, her (his muse Namik’s) beauty, her lips, her smell, her taste, her way of intellectualizing her feelings to protect herself.

A clear timeline of events is not prominent in the film; which adds to the disorienting feeling that progresses throughout the film. This initially seemed somewhat problematic, but, in reality, timelines do only get more muddled with time. So, as with relationships, while it is frustrating that time deteriorates our mental timeline of events, I was left to ponder the actual importance of a clear timeline.

Similarly absent was an objective narrative of the relationship. Nance’s romanticizations of what he wanted/expected/hoped for/idealized along with good amounts of both self-doubt and criticism are tangled up in his largely one-sided representation of events. Also, the viewer only receives superficial glimpses of who Nance is. The viewer can only be involved with whom they are presented; a seemingly mysterious, and creative character. We, as viewers, are engaged with him (feeling, seeing, and experiencing through him) regardless of how flawed his perception of the experience may be in reality (although, it should be noted, the way in which the experience is presented, reality takes a back seat to perception).

While An Oversimplification of Her Beauty seems to be Nance’s way of ending – or more accurately – accepting the ending of his relationship with Namik, and while the film does a superb job of encapsulating the evolution and devolution of a meaningful (to at least one of the parties involved) relationship, I couldn’t help but wonder if my inclination to sympathize/connect with Nance’s portrayal of events had more to do with his abilities as a director, than his character as a person.

While I would have enjoyed hearing more of Namik’s perspective, there is no question that Nance is an incredibly skilled director and creative person. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty uses a unique combination of art, sounds, and breaks in film to trigger memories/experiences and to convey emotions and ideas that I doubt could ever be conveyed through simple scripted lines. While this film may not be for those unaccustomed to the abstract, I think it would be hard to find someone who couldn’t relate to some aspect of the film.

Michael Benton responds to Ebony Angel:

"How would you feel" - the question situates us in the creator's shoes immediately and the repetition of the question throughout the re-conception/re-vision of this tale about a possible romantic moment in the filmmaker's life/story continually re-situates us, asking us to repeatedly re-imagine our original and continuing responses to a situation.

"How would you feel" - this question now haunts my consciousness. How would you feel if I created a film/artwork/song/story that changed the way you understand the world? How would you feel if I suggested or screened a film that changed your understanding of the world? How would you feel if I critiqued or responded to something you thought you understood and with my words/ideas I completely changed that understanding throwing everything into question and re-beginning that narrative so that you must re-visit it with new "eyes."

"How would you feel" - so many people enter into our lives and touch us in so many ways. What are the traces of those intense moments in which they forever change us. How do we sift through the sediment of these moments...

Ebony, this is a fantastic response. You skillfully break down the film and ask important questions. In the extras to the film there is a commentary track by Namik in which she comments on the film. I think you hit on one of the best parts of this film for me. In our contemporary mediatized society we are encouraged to give ourselves up to the power/authority of the "controlling" narrative. We are constantly being pressured to just go along for the ride (if we want pleasure and enjoyment -- just sniff the poppy, acquiesce to the siren's song, don't question....) ... the lights dim, the film starts, our minds shut off....

How would you feel.... if someone questioned that process and continuously questioned the nature of filmmaking, relationships and our identities as they are produced/constructed and re-assesed/re-conceived over time.

Thank you for you response Ebony!

Rory Barron:

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure how to review this film. It's completely fantastic and it loosely reminded me of a few personal experiences that I find hard to put into words. From an artistic perspective, it's an original portrayal of love and how it effects the people involved (even if one does not love the other in the same way) in an intimate journey. I think I find reviewing this film difficult because I'm unable to clearly define the journey we experience throughout life and how our lives connect with others. This film is just one portrayal but it's amazing and definitely worth seeing.

Kelly Frances:

I had to think about this movie for awhile. My knee jerk reaction was that it annoyed me a little, but then the more I thought about it the more I liked it. I liked how weird it was, even though I was confused at some parts. I think this movie was the abstract mind of a guy and his thoughts and feelings on his past relationships. In particular, this one girl that I don't even know if they end up together or not. I think the repeating that keeps happening is the repeating thoughts that the main character Terence keeps having...and that made me think about all my past relationships. And how I used to get hung up on why they rejected me or why things didn't work out. And how I analyzed and wondered and obsessed. And I feel like that was what Terence was doing and thats what the film was about. I think is was a very unique and beautiful movie...but I have a hard time with these movies because I get distracted trying to analyze it instead of sitting back and taking it for what the movie is. I really would like to see it again because there is so much I kind of feel like I missed. The one thing that I keep wondering is if that footage/interview of the girl and him was real or scripted? Either way, I liked that part and love how the the writer/director/main character Terence really put his heart and soul into the film and did something experimental and something that is very thought provoking. The opening credits were my favorite part because the music and cinematography were so perfect and beautiful. If anything this film speaks to hearts and I would imagine anyone who has experienced love/lust/heartache will feel and get something from this movie.

Seth Gardner:

An oversimplification of her beauty is an intriguing film to say the least. There are some things I didn’t like that they did and some things that I did like. First and foremost Ill say that it is extremely refreshing to see a film about African-Americans produced by African-Americans that had literally nothing to with the fact black and was in no way about their blackness. This is just a dude who loves this girl. In the movie culture it seems that the only reason an African-American is cast is to be token black dude doing and saying stereotypical black things. So, for the purposes of this movie, that is one of the biggest takeaways that I got from the movie. As for the story itself, which the movie claims to be true, I thought the voice over was a little aggressive and constant and after a while I really had to concentrate on not tuning out what the voice over was saying. Between the voiceover and the extreme nature of the non-linear sequencing Ill say it was difficult to get into the movie for quite a while. The visuals were nice but they seemed to lack any real meaning that I got anything from and really clashed with the theme of the movie. In the end though, the story that is told of this young man and the fact that he made a movie to tell this girl he loved her only for her to still reject him is something that I definitely felt. If I had gone through all that trouble only to get rejected anyway I’d probably develop some sort of alcoholism. Overall though, I thought it was enjoyable and would probably show to my friends.

Jordan Rector:

This film was like nothing I've seen before. I can remember only a select few movies that focused on why we feel the way we do under certain circumstances. The first 20 minutes of the movie really stuck in my head. The repeating question "How would you feel?" is an important question when dealing with a persons feelings. It shows how the main character grows through past experiences with dating. I used to get so hung up on why my relationships didn't work out. Replaying old times together in my head over and over to try and understand what went wrong. I felt as though i had literally been in Terence shoes in some of those situations. The chronological order of things was a bit confusing at times but made more sense as he started to show the different kinds of people he's dated over the past. I enjoyed how in depth he got with his feelings. Sometimes maybe too deep because i couldn't have told you what the movie was about until the very end. Ill have to watch this movie multiple times to break down some scenes i felt were important and relate-able. I also wonder if the scenes where she was being interviewed is scripted. Some scenes you can clearly tell they're acting a part but in the interview scenes there was an enormous amount of attraction, connection, and passion between the two of them that it felt incredibly genuine. This movie is something that i will reference when some of those similar situations happen in my life. The cinematography and and pretty music accent this film very well with what Terence is trying show the audience.

Emily Hensley:

An “Oversimplification of Her Beauty” is a unique up beat film within a film that expands on ideas presented in Terrance Nance’s previous film “How would you feel?” Nance tells a tale of his journey dealing with and trying to express his undisclosed love for his lady friend, who just happens to already be taken. The narrative style engages, captivates and devours the audience with the young man’s opposition of feelings, emotions and past relationship experiences. While watching this film the audience is forced to ponder the question “How would you feel?” as this becomes a repetitive theme throughout the film. The audience is invoked to feel empathy for Nance, as most human beings have walked a day in similar shoes; falling in love or drowning out of love.

Nance’s past relationships come alive and practically jump off the screen with the use of several simple but mesmerizing visual effects; revealing how his past plays a role in the love triangle he experiences. Through the visual effects the audience is taken on an adventure traveling through Nance’s mind, memories and his realization of what truly occurred in his past relationships. There is also a very intimate appeal using photographs, old family movies and raw emotion as an artistic style. With that being said creativity just radiates throughout with the use of multiple artistic forms, poetic gestures, eccentric colors, visual effects, wooden puppets, and personal filmed interviews with Nance’s love interest.

Nance recognizes his faults and mistakes as he grows and learns as a human being. This concept is a great lesson to learn as in today’s vain society most people never take the time to analyze their past relationships or why they didn’t work. People never think they are at fault for failed relationships or how past relationships mold us into the partners we become. This feature I feel represents how relationships and their success can be defined and redefined as cause and effect from past to future. Although many aspects of relationships and love are presented in Nance’s vision, not all are clearly stated…which guides the audience to think and grasp their own ideas of what the film brings to them and their life using a fresh and hip style.

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