of Her Beauty
Runs Fri., June 21–Thurs., June 27 at Grand Illusion. Not rated. 89 minutes.
Handmade, unique, and somewhat unclassifiable, Terence Nance’s debut feature is a film about a film about a real relationship: his, with fellow Brooklyn bohemian Namik Minter. The whole project’s related in retrospect via dense, accusatory, second-person voiceover, which dissects that failed relationship in terms that can only be called Godardian. This ought to make the movie insufferable, but instead it’s rather charming—if you can accept its solipsistic, reading-from-my-diary quality.
How Would You Feel? is the first film Nance made about his crush object. Following that is a partially realized film, Subtext, that Minter made in response. “None of this is like me,” she protests of her prior representation. Then, several years after the two split, Minter goes back to re-edit everything together—essentially the story of how he got “friend-zoned,” which is what we’re watching now. None of the footage has sync-sound, one reason for the constant, verbose voiceover. “You have been making this movie for so long that you are starting to forget how you felt,” the narrator warns Nance.
All this relentless commentary is not a little pretentious, but the sheer artsy-fartsiness of it probably reflects where Nance’s head was at as a younger man. In way, you could compare An Oversimplification to Before Midnight, with another cute, overeducated couple at its core. Or, more accurately, Minter is like Ethan Hawke’s Jesse in Before Sunrise way back when: a young artist full of himself, full of romantic yearnings, yet unsure how to check his ego and win the girl. Full of animation and music, narrative loops and digressions, An Oversimplification is far from white mumblecore movies, far from Spike Lee. It’s an entirely sincere, overstuffed mélange that, Minter tells the director, is “all about you,” all about his flawed, romantic, admiring perception of her. And that, friend-zoned or no, is not something Nance ever disputes.