3 Needles Thom Fitzgerald

A wise sage once said about writing: "take the work seriously and yourself unseriously.” Clearly, that wise sage was not Thom Fitzgerald. In the time-honoured tradition of self-impressed Canadian directors, he’s cloaked himself in the robes of seriousness in order to deflect his total lack of anything to say, and 3 Needles is the dubious result. Fitzgerald would dearly like to have something to say about the AIDS crisis in a geopolitical sense, and so he marshals three storylines to create HIV intolerance: strand one deals with the evasions of an infected porn star (Shawn Ashmore) and his mother (Stockard Channing); strand two depicts a Chinese blood distributor (Lucy Liu) who unwittingly unleashes an epidemic; and strand three details the exploits of a novice nun (Chloe Sevigny) loosed on the no-man’s-land of South Africa. Fitzgerald proves very good at making it look like he’s dealing with issues but he’s really just muddying the waters — at no point does he offer anything resembling constructive analysis, mostly just presenting the disasters of cultural misunderstanding and government thumb-twiddling as insurmountable rather than doing anything with the information. He’s so concerned with name-checking the issues that he fails to suggest any way around this, and while the matters are as tangled and painful as he depicts, surely there’s more to political filmmaking than blunt statements and the bad melodrama he passes off as artistry. The movie starts off dull and gets you progressively more furious, until you want nothing to do with its twin Canadian hobgoblins of defeatism and preciousness. The issues being dealt with deserve more deferential respect and less self-serving crocodile tears. (Seville)