DVD - 2002
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A story that makes light of the dark side of human behavior. Discover the truth about sex, lies and race relations in suburban America. Includes a mixture of an emotionally needy college student, a slacker named Scooby and a very dysfunctional family man.


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Feb 04, 2015

Life imitates art...then art turns around and kicks life in the balls in Todd Solondz’s mean-spirited pair of tales mocking artistic narcissism and upper class complacency. In the first part a young woman composes a heartfelt story based on a disturbing sexual encounter she had with the professor teaching her creative writing class. When she presents it to her classmates, however, she doesn’t quite get the reaction she was hoping for. In the second part a wannabe director tries to make a serious documentary on a troubled teenager but his motives become suspect after it is shown to a test audience. Solondz explores the various ways we lie to others, and to ourselves, as we try to reconcile the differences between the person we actually are, and the person we believe we should be. Along the way he employs his signature brand of caustic humour, whether it be a derisive allusion to American Beauty or the cutting remarks of a blissfully self-absorbed child; the latter becoming the very embodiment of the director’s own world-weary cynicism. Unlike his previous films which elicited some degree of sympathy for the characters, Storytelling goes straight for the jugular and takes no prisoners. In fact the final scene is a firm F. U. to filmmakers and audiences alike...followed by a jaunty little closing song that pokes fun at the movie itself. This is the type of film Michael Haneke would make if he had a sense of humour, but Solondz’s tone is just too bitter to pull it off completely. Instead of the biting satire it could have been he delivers a cruel and sarcastic polemic instead. There are still some brilliant moments here, but he’s done better.

Feb 20, 2009

First Todd Solondz directs a film called "Welcome to the Doll House" (1996) - a very dark comedy about the trials and tribulations of a nerdy preteen girl's life. He uses her unkindly welcome in junior high as metaphor for her introduction to adolescence.
And the movie's well received by critics and the public, alike, because it's uniquely comical in those most painful of ways that have as their origin, real life itself.
Still high on that initial success, he follows up with the double-entendre-titled "Happiness" (1998), a movie that builds on the dark-humour genre, only this time he uses an ensemble cast to expose the underbelly of the suburbs and its population's predilection for psychotherapy.
Just when you start to like the guy, because you think he's cutting edge - he does a turn-around on you that leaves you speechless!
He takes his relentless approach to viewing life through a satirical prism and turns it inside-out, to expose - what... misanthropy?
I mean - you have to wonder, with that kind of previous success in a genre - what he was attempting to convey with "Storytelling"?

It's certainly not sardonic humour - which he really showed he had a gift for in his first two films.
Shock-effect, for sure because "Storytelling" is going to shock your conventionality, and leave you feeling a bit used and wasted.
It's in two parts: The first short is entitled "Fiction" and opens with Vi, played by Selma Blair, in bed with her Cerebral Palsy-afflicted lover, Marcus, played by Leo Fitzpatrick.
Just when your mind begins to wonder how that's working out for them... Marcus questions Vi's commitment to the love-making and the relationship, causing Vi to leave without really answering the question.
They are both in college and in the same English class taught by Mr. Scott, a former Pulitzer Prize winner, and as they sit listening to their Prof rip into their classmates' feeble attempts to write contemporary fiction - the stage slowly sets for dramatic tension and character conflict.

It's not until later that night, when Vi by chance, meets her English professor in a bar and retires to his place - that the movie goes from "ho-hum" to "what the hell?" in 60 seconds!
Vi appears to consent to a brutal sex act with him - then writes about it - and submits it for group discussion in his English tutorial, the next day.
The subsequent discussion that follows, as to what Vi submitted as creative writing, and then argued was in fact - rape - gives rise to the short vignette's title.

Is it "fiction"?

It is well you ask!

Mr Scott of course puts it down as the worst of fiction... and is supported by his pedantic tribe - all trying to mirror their pedagog's dismissal of Vi's work.

All, except the Cerebral Palsy plagued Marcus, that is.

Often, in great literary works - be they Shakespeare's, Homer's, and even Mark Twain, "truth" is usually spoken by a character with some physical disability or mental incapacity.

Is Solondz mimicking the Masters, here?
Suffice to say that Solondz uses his characters to extract excruciating revelations of their disfunctionalities as a method for eliciting a look inside our own souls.

Keep what I said in mind as you watch the second Short in "Storytelling" - entitled "Non-Fiction" - the less interesting of the two, but just as controversial in its dissection of the human psyches at play within a family and its interaction with the rest of the world.

It will seep in soon enough, you'll see, that this too is a full-out assault on viewers' faculties by Solondz' very subtle scathing of their senses and shocking his audience's good taste.
All his characters in this film are off-kilter, and Solondz knows that, but offers them up anyway as a connective thread between all of them - and the rest of us.

Frankly... I preferred his "freak" as a fleeting state of humour - rather than "freak" as a permanent state of mind.


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