The truth lies outside the frame, the 'November' poster's catch phrase teases.
Wednesday June 22nd, InDigEnt's recent production, 'November,' played at the Directors Guild of America as one of the summer previews in the Los Angeles Film Festival. Due to the festivities, the star of the film, Courtney Cox, along with director, Gregory Harrison, introduced the Independent movie. Courtney stated this would be the type of film a person might spend days after thinking about, and followed the statement with, 'Even though I didn't really get it,' and a cute, wine-influenced (her own admission) giggle.
I understand what Courtney means; she didn't get it. I don't think 'November' is really to be gotten, but a film that the audience is required to participate' to take in and interpret.
Courtney Cox plays Sophie, a photographer suffering the guilt of an affair she's had, and then burdened with the trauma of a bloody liquor store robbery she experiences, in one way or another, soon after. Anyone expecting to find Courtney's perky 'Friend's' persona will be disappointed; she deftly portrays a crumpled woman losing her sanity over the course of the film. James LeGros (Drugstore Cowboy) does a nice, subtle performance playing her live-in boyfriend, Hugh, who, though unaware of her tryst, knows something has changed. All this information is interspersed between the other variations of trauma shuffled out in bits and pieces for us, the viewers, to ponder.
Like a moving abstract painting, the scenes, at first, seem to unfold only to scatter: Sophie and Hugh begin by going to a liquor store at night in a seedy area. This fact never changes. The events that follow the robbery, the shooting, and the victims vary. The theme pieces of the puzzle are lit in specific colors, according to the director, to be associated with specific subjective memories. I imagine, much the way pleasant memories may be remembered in golden light, and vice-versa. In this way we, the audience, experience Sophie's trauma from inside her tortured skull; we're there.
Cinematographer Nancy Schreiber, who won the Sundance 2004 Cinematography award for this very film, creates surreal images, pushing the limits of the Panasonic DVX-100 (digital video) camera she was given to work with - just as Gregory Harrison ('Groove') had wanted. Her images are tinted, grainy, dingy, and murky to a hauntingly eerie degree; Schreiber seems to have achieved Director Gregory Harrison's quest to portray a timeless, claustrophobic, and unsettling feeling inside the world of a traumatized person's fragmented mind.
Along with the visual effects created through the cinematography, and Gregory Harrison's editing, the audience is stimulated aurally as well: the loud, thumping bass which enters through the thin walls of Sophie's tiny apartment feels stifling; the hyper-agitated sizzle and hum of a dying fluorescent light creates skin-crawling anxiety, while the over-amplified blasts of the robber's gun have the ability to send momentary quivers through an audience a sea of shoulders shutter with each explosion.
As the various pieces of information are dispersed, other images and information are placed throughout the film to ponder: Sophie, as a college photography teacher, has her students consider the importance of what is excluded from a photo; there's a running theme of a weekly newspaper headline that asks, 'Is Modernism Really Dead?' And a cop who, while investigating the crime, says of Sophie's out-of-focus, abstract photograph taken inside the liquor store (which, if clear, could have been evidence), 'Maybe it's too arty for its own good.' The audience is let in on the filmmaker's ironic jabs.
Also appearing are Anne Archer, who gets to play a few different versions of Sophie's sexy mother, and Nora Dunn as Sophie's stone-faced therapist.
I recommend 'November' for those who don't expect to sit back and have a story unfold without some effort of their own; for people who are curious how a Panasonic DVX-100 camera, fifteen days of filming and a budget of approximately $300,000 can be used to create a compelling, surrealistic thriller. But then, I'd recommend it for anyone who wants to see an interesting, well acted film no matter what the budget or type of camera. As one of the producers, Gary Winick, stated during the Q&A session after the film ended, 'It's not what it costs, but what its worth.'
'November' is not to be gotten, but experienced. Isn't that what 'The truth lies outside the frame' is hinting at? So if I understand this film one iota - Courtney did get it after all.
Directed By: Greg Harrison
Writer: Benjamin Brand
Producers: Danielle Renfrew, Gary Winick, Jake Abraham
Executive Producers: Jonathan Sehring, Caroline Kaplan, John Sloss
Cinematographer: Nancy Schreiber
Editor: Greg Harrison
Music: Lew Baldwin
Cast: Courteney Cox, James LeGros, Michael Ealy, Nora Dunn, Nick Offerman, Anne Archer
The Los Angeles Film Festival continues through June 26th. For ticket and schedule information:
'November' is expected to be released in theaters July 22, 2005