Monday, April 03, 2006

Eileen is a Spy

Eileen is a Spy

Cantadora Productions (2205 California St NE Minneapolis Mn 55418 cantadora.prod@usa.net)

Written and Directed by Sayer Frey; Produced by Sayer Frey and John Kremer; Music by Barbara Cohen

No rating given (I suggest PG-13); 75 Minutes; 8.5/10

Caption: “You can take the curiosity out of the girl … but NOT the spy out of the woman.”

This film is the winning feature for the 1999 Maybery Award for the Minnesota Film and TV Board. The winning short was the improvisatory bland-and-white fantasy Chromium Hook.

And indeed, this is a nice little black-and-white movie (somehow reminds me of the look of 1955 Sabrina), that makes you feel that you are at the movies. Its feminist genre has a rather gentle edge.

The film amounts to a personal account by a young woman who “comes out” to herself in her ability to love women. She has to get over the psychological conditioning and (I think) abuse by her father, who could not value women unless they were “beautiful” (rather than “good” or “intelligent”) in order to indulge the “needs” of men. In doing so, she develops a certain “voyeuristic” approach to her world that resembles my own in my Do Ask, Do Tell book. The script contains a lot of first-person narration that sounds a bit conventional (unlike the narrative styles of American Beauty and Fight Club, which are very effective) and that should have been replaced by more interactive dialogue with the sparse other characters. And the script could use more organization and structure (so effective, say, in Sleepers) to give the viewer a sense of place.

The BW photography, though, satiated the eye constantly with on-location upper-Midwest images. You approach downtown Minneapolis from the Central Avenue Bridge crossing the Mississippi (watch out for the speed trap!) and view the skyline, including the Churchill Apartments in which I type this review. You see a woman lying on a bed from above, almost that near-death look that reminds one of a similar, but colorful shot in American Beauty. Along the streets and roads (to borrow from a famous grade-school reading text of the 1950’s), you feel yourself riding into a past generation: tractors designed to look like Thomas locomotives run around a state fair, and women (Mennonite??) sporting parasols march down a country road. Perhaps she has a bit of Clive Barker’s dominions in her blood

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