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Overall Rating
4.22

Awesome: 22.22%
Worth A Look77.78%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings


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4th Life, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Last train to Darckeville."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: The funny thing about "The 4th Life" is that for a film that is having its North American premiere at an "Underground Film Festival", there's arguably a pretty conventional film inside it, yearning to break free. Whether by temperment or budget, director François Miron makes something that feels bizarre and unreal, but that's what works for him.

Right now, Marie March (Janet Lane) is married to an antique dealer about to go under, and although she doesn't love him nearly as much as he loves her, she's well aware things could be worse. Her husband has heard of a collection for sale in far-off Darckeville, so she hops a freight train (passenger trains and buses to that area were just discontinued) and makes her way out. Meanwhile, Caz (Andrea Sheldon) is breaking out of an asylum for the criminally insane along with her brain-damaged brother George (Tod Fennell). Caz and Marie were lovers in the past, and having one's crazy, homicidal lover on the loose is never a good thing.

The plot is not quite conventional, but unlike a lot of filmmakers who work beyond the fringes of mainstream film, François Miron does concentrate on his story. He uses flashbacks well, illustrating the history Marie and Caz share so that we're clear where everybody whenever that information is going to be useful. Nothing ever seems to happen without a good reason, and the plentiful strange events seldom seem to simply be the result of a whim. The climactic scenes are fairly tight and suspenseful, so often a weakness among arty filmmakers.

Even though The 4th Life is, at heart, a decent crime story, it probably can't be called multiplex-friendly. Miron's film is highly stylized, for instance: The train station where Marie is told that there are no trains to Darckeville seems less like a real place than a theatrical representation, lit so as to fade to black at the edges of the ticket booth - either as an intentional surrealistic effect or a way to avoid building more, or both. The characters inhabit a strange world that seems to lack structure, with the "central government" blamed for the lack of trains a far-off and vague notion. When Marie tries to call home, she's told that terrorists have taken out the phones.

Her flat, disbelieving response to that assertion is a perfect example of how Janet Lane's performance kind of difficult to judge. It doesn't take much effort to read it as a woman who has been through a lot and is burned-out and cynical. But, on the other hand, the tone of her voice is so consistent and emotionless that it isn't a stretch to guess that Ms. Lane was hired as much for bieng willing to take a small paycheck and take off her clothes as for her acting ability. Andrea Sheldon at least gets a little more to work with as Caz - it's easier to convey emotion while yelling and someone who's nuts has a built-in justification for weird sounding lines.

Miron and his crew make the film an enjoyable experience. Even if designer Pier Lefebvre's sets don't always look real, they do a good job of conveying the atmosphere of a place, and Gilles Blais's camerawork, especially during the flashback sequences, is pretty nice. Miron can be a little too arty for his own good sometimes - the shot where a face in profile takes up half of the screen while talking to someone medium-distance in the other half almost always looks unreal - but he's got the knack of how to emphasize his heroine's sexuality (which he should, because Mrie leans on it) without quite making the audience feel sort of scummy about it.

There's enough skill on display that I almost wish Miron had made a slightly more conventional thriller. "The 4th Life" is intriguing, but I think it could have been even better with a little less concentration on atmospherics and more on solid storytelling.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15958&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/24/07 12:18:51
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2007 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/06/07 Jerome Say it at the Fantasia film fest at a sold out sceeni, the film blew my mind,I want theDVD 5 stars
5/16/07 Phil extremely strange but interesting 4 stars
3/31/07 Mia A really trippy film 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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