The International Writers Magazine: Film Review
Ten Tiny Love Stories
Director: Rodrigo García
Colombian filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia, son of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, made an odd, but provocative little film (97 minutes in length) in 2001, called Ten Tiny Love Stories; which was his second film, made between his debut 2000 film, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, and his great 2005 film, Nine Lives.
Unsurprisingly, it is a better film than the first one, but not as good as the third one. Like those two films, this one focuses on female characters - and in this film it is exclusively female characters: ten women (of varied ages and ethnicities, who look into a camera and declaim on their sex lives, backgrounded by meager set pieces, in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That’s it. Nothing more. And, on the whole, it works. It is not a great film, but an audacious one, because the monologues are so intelligent and literate that it makes the film an artifice; albeit in the best sense, for while the scenarios described are realistic, the aplomb and self-knowledge presented in the telling is certainly not.
In brief, here are the ten monologues, with the names of the actresses, for only two or three women give their fictive identities:
1) Rhada Mitchell is a British woman who speaks of a former love and his charms.
2) Alicia Witt compares two former beaus.
3) Lisa Gay Hamilton is a black woman who tells the tale of being set up for a lonely blind date with a South American man who sexually humiliates her.
4) Rebecca Tilney is a woman who speaks of a sexual fantasy of a fat Mexican man who is hung up on a Cuban ballerina from his past
5) Kimberley Williams plays an American tourist who tells a tale of being seduced by a Greek waiter in the Aegean, and then the loneliness of returning to her hum drum existence.
6) Debi Mazar is a New Yorker who holds a small dog and blathers on about a lost love.
7) Deborah Unger is a melodramatic woman who weaves an interesting tale of euthanizing her dog, meeting her ex-husband, and having an abortion.
8) Susan Traylor spins a small tale about falling in love with a puppeteer and then puts the blame for the breakup onto him.
9) Elizabeth Pena tells the longest and most complex (or convoluted0 tale of them all, about an ex-husband she never loved, and the whole monologue is an excellent study in passive-aggression.
10) Kathy Baker ends the film as a widow who puts on airs of sexual libertinism that is undermined by the later things she states.
As a whole, the film succeeds, but its constituent parts are a hit and miss affair. The shorter pieces often need fleshing out: four, six and eight, while the longest tales are also mixed. Nine is well wrought, but Pena delivers perhaps the most stilted of all the performances, whereas the fifth tale is the most perfectly wrought and executed. Kimberley Williams is perhaps the youngest and most sexually attractive of all the women, and her utter self-loathing touches the most chords. Lisa Gay Hamilton’s tale and character is perhaps the most naturalistic in setting and performance. Kathy Baker, unsurprisingly, also gives a stellar performance in what is one of the more sparsely and poorly wrought pieces.
That stated, given that there are ten females, at least three or four of the women should have had happy tales, or have been in successful relationships. As in his other films, Garcia seems to posit loneliness and loss and self-loathing and guilt as the default states of female sexual psyches. In a sense, when well wrought, this results in great realism of the tale (again allowing for the artifice of the presentation), but it also promulgates some noxious stereotypes. Also, the difference in length - from 3-4 minutes up to almost 20 minutes, disservices some of the tales and actresses, in both directions. And, again, what works well as a written monologue, or even a soliloquy within a stage drama, surrounded by more functionary dialogue, so that the insights can be seen to be bubbling up out of something deeper and broader, when just encountered baldly, with no set up, does not work as well whilst an actress just looks into a camera. Had the tales been told to a friend who just prompts, or been placed in some other real life situation, it would have worked much better.
Still, kudos to Garcia for trying to do something above and beyond mere Hollywood formula. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography, such as it is, is serviceable, and there is no soundtrack of note - save for ambient background noises: birds, airplanes overhead, rain on rooftops, etc. Ten Tiny Love Stories is a film that should be seen, and in its best scenarios, embraced, but, overall, it is more provocation than evocation. But, when the few good pokes still stick in one’s ribs after a few days, one knows that the provocation was not mere self service.
© by Dan Schneider October 2014
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