Friday, April 17, 2009

Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America (2003)

Fear 5/5
Gore 4/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 5/5

Shocking. Disturbing. Dirty feeling and shower inducing. Adjectives and other phrases can not even begin to describe how I felt after seeing this film. OK, let me correct that. After seeing the first of three short stories in this collection of fucked up family lives portrayed on screen.

All films are labeled as I, II, and III with no names or titles. The first short story I, centers on a woman who is desperately trying to gain the attention of her disinterested and aloof husband. She cooks, cleans, doing everything for him, trying in vain to get him to notice her after years of marriage and initially thinking they had the perfect one.

She awakens in the middle of the night to the sounds of her husband in their sons' bedroom. Whispers and innuendos abound and it becomes apparent to the viewer what is going on as the woman thinks to herself 'What have I done? How could I have let this go on in my house?'

In one last ditch effort to win his affection and just to get him to acknowledge her existence, she dolls herself up the next day, complete with red lipstick and dress. As she presents herself to him (while he's staring intently at the baseball game on TV), she becomes visibly frustrated as he won't even lift his head up to look at her, focusing straight ahead at the game unfolding. In her frustration, she returns to the bathroom, takes off her dress and furiously takes a brillo pad to her mouth, taking off the lipstick and her skin along with it. When she's not satisfied with her efforts, she takes a pair of scissors near the sink and cuts off her lips. She stumbles out of the bathroom, re-presents herself to her husband, and only then does he acknowledge her with a look of complete shock and horror.

The ending of this first vignette is one of the most shocking scenes that I have ever witnessed on film. Completely gut punching and horrific, the image is still ingrained in my mind a week after watching it. None of the other short stories in the trilogy are as aweful or gruesome but they are interesting character studies (one about an abused from childhood man that has turned to religion to shield his scars but he can't hold back who he is and ends up killing his wife and daughter). Definitely not for the faint of heart. Try not to eat before seeing this one.

Cortez the Killer

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