Published Jul 01, 2005Great films take risks. Gus Van Sant let modern day street hustlers speak Shakespearean English in My Own Private Idaho. Todd Solondz had seven different actresses (and one actor) play his main character (at the same age) in Palindromes to explore the nature of character, personality and identity.
It's true that Sally Potter's Yes takes chances and occasionally flies. Shirley Henderson's direct address monologues on the nature of dirt are free of self-conscious reverie, though I think the credit belongs to the actress's subtle sense of irony. As in Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvy, her final speech steals the show.
But then there's the dialogue. Joan Allen, Sam Neill, Simon Abkarian and the remainder of the cast often speak in iambic pentameter. It's just plain grating by the final frame. In her notes, Potter says, "...many viewers of the film don't really notice its rhymes or its metre." After seeing the film, this seems more like a justification than an explanation. The emotional exposition is painfully obvious: "It seems you know nothing of my life," "I guess that's what happens when love dies," "I am not solid anymore. I am a feeling."
The mix in camera styles is jarring, as we go from a black and white security camera point of view to luscious colour, though it must be said that Potter's portrait of Allen on a satin pillow is breathtaking, referencing her famous shot of Tilda Swinton in 1992's Orlando.
So is this a pretentious art film or a genius at work? Only time will tell. After all, Van Sant's Idaho became more palatable over time. But at the end of the day, more of the film should work than actually does. And that makes Yes a big "No." (Mongrel Media)