“Brilliant Love” at 2010 Tribeca Film Festival
From England, “Brilliant Love,” is a narrative about an amateur photographer, Manchester, whose erotic photographs of his girlfriend, Noon, catapult him into success in the world of modern art. However Noon does not learn that she is the subject of Manchester’s first gallery show until she arrives at the event. Talk about an awkward moment.
“Brilliant Love” is about sexuality and is very frank in its depiction of it. Unlike many American films that want to be about sexuality but ultimately only go the length of their R-rated leashes, “Brilliant Love” is refreshing in its depiction of the frankness and playfulness of its two main characters. Should the film ever be released in this country it will no doubt have to undergo MPAA mandated cuts (which would hurt it) or go out unrated (which would limit its audience).
While I appreciated the openness of “Brilliant Love” I did have issues with its story telling and construction. Manchester and Noon are shown to be a very intimate couple living a bohemian existence in a small converted garage. Manchester, by a fluke, has this amazing opportunity to enter the big time art world but somehow does not tell Noon that she is the subject of his art. During the Q&A that followed the film’s screening I asked director Ashley Horner about this very point. He replied that Manchester did make some attempts to tell Noon, but that not telling her was certainly one of the biggest relationships mistakes ever made. What I think this really comes down to is that old screenwriting crutch of advancing the story by not having the characters talk frankly to each other. In other words it takes the film an hour and a half to resolve an issue that the characters could have resolved in a minute if they had simply had an honest conversation. The convention can work well in a charming comedy like “Top Hat” (1935) or even more venomously in a darker movie like “Blood Simple” (1984). The latter and former are admittedly two very different examples in which the characters not speaking directly to one another propels the stories. However this approach does not work for every film, case in point.
In addition, in terms of story I found the construction of “Brilliant Love” to be a bit clunky. The film’s first act is too long. A first act should be about 20 minutes in length. In the case of “Brilliant Love” we are shown over and over again that Manchester and Noon are young, bohemian and in love. It takes nearly an hour to arrive at the film’s first conflict, Manchester receiving the opportunity to enter the big time, which then spins us too late into the film’s second act.
On the “plus” side I did enjoy the film’s depiction of the modern art world as comically pretentious. The intelligentsia tells Manchester that they admire his technique, which they describe as an absence of any technique. During the gallery show of his photographs a drunk Manchester curses at the guests and removes his clothes. He is then applauded by the crowd for what it perceives to be an artistic statement.
I appreciated “Brilliant Love’s” frankness both in its depiction of the main characters’ relationship and in the conventions of the modern art world. Ultimately though the story needed to have either more conflict sooner or perhaps might have been better suited to a shorter film.
Posted on May 1, 2010, in Tribeca Film Festival 2010 and tagged Ashley Horner, Blood Simple, Brilliant Love, Manchester, modern art, MPAA, Noon, Orgasm Diaries, sexuality, Top Hat, Tribeca Film Festival. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.