The cerebral bondage of PREVERTERE is a complicated kind of kink

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Rating: ★★★

Brian McGuire longs – as do I – for a return to the great spirit of 90’s independent films. His latest Prevertere, doesn’t possess the poetic rust of Jim Jarmusch or mesmerise quite like the meanderings of Richard Linklater but its scrappy visual aesthetic puts you in mind of Alexandre Rockwell, and its energetic eccentricity is reminiscent of latter-day Hal Hartley. As potty-mouthed, sexually frank and bawdy as his earlier efforts, it’s a significant step forward for the filmmaker who, for the first time, is examining the terrible behaviour often exhibited by his characters.

Templeton (Terry Wayne) is a sex fiend who’s physically appealing to women but emotionally adrift. Wayne’s face is the perfect physical embodiment of this conflict; the smirking good looks of Rob Lowe, mixed with the hangdog harrowment of Sam Rockwell. Underneath the surface equanimity there’s clearly a conscience-stricken soul, and that makes it a face worthy of psychological analysis in a way the farcically facial-haired Boyles of Carlos Spills the Beans were not.

The provocative title may promise perversions aplenty, but the mental anxieties and confusion of the sex being had is an altogether more complicated kind of kink. Instead of straddling a strap-on or taking a golden shower, Templeton’s biggest perversity is a cerebral form of bondage. In his on-going affairs with three fuck buddies, sex is hardly shown and what’s seen can barely be made out. Discourse is far dirtier and more intimate than intercourse, which is over quickly and without joy.

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Shelly (Antonella Ponziani) is a much older Italian woman Templeton’s been seeing for three years yet they’ve never set foot outside the bedroom and he can’t even remember her name. She wants a boyfriend, he wants a bootycall. Outside of sex they live in completely separate worlds, willingly oblivious to each other’s feelings. Templeton says he keeps coming back for her company but they have nothing to talk about. His self-excusing blather turns him on more than she does – elaborately constructed lies about being a musician on tour give him the perfect excuse to come knocking whenever he pleases without commitment.

Irene (Pollyanna McIntosh) has plenty to talk about and, in-between their sessions, psychoanalyzes him with such accuracy as to suggest she knows him better than he does himself. In these lengthy diagnoses (where McGuire comes closest to emulating Linklater), Irene may as well be talking about herself. Two sides of the same coin, she’s the only women who understands Templeton, but also meets him on his terms, in strong agreement that they not form any emotional attachments, even though they’re obviously very close. Templeton’s post-coital disinterest in discussing the state of his relationship with Shelly is reversed here, silently imploring Irene to fully divulge the state of theirs. Both reactions are those of someone searching not for hedonism, but meaning.

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Irene is equally enthusiastic about dressing up and puppet shows as a form of foreplay, but as Templeton rolls around in women’s clothes and they frolic amongst the sprawl of a cardboard box cityscape that extends across her living room the flimsy skyscrapers only serve to emphasise the stygian depths of his problem and the transparency of his distractionary tactics. One of which is to drive off for a wild weekend to Sin City with his on-off girlfriend of many years, Joanna (Rose Rossi). Alone together at a house party full of strangers, his self-hatred and commitment-phobic cowardice echo around unfurnished rooms. Even before he hits the hard drugs, he’s experiencing a full tilt boogie bad trip of fear and loathing in Las Vegas.

Like his many sexual partners, this partying parade of crazy characters (and regular McGuire collaborators, including Bret Roberts as a low level lounge singer who croons all his lines) are reflections of Templeton in a madhouse of mirrors. In accordance with McGuire’s unravelling of sexual dysfunction, his protagonist starts to unravel, and the film’s rough and ready-looking form really starts to suit its subject, even if all Templeton’s friends with benefits can offer him, is existential crisis instead of sexual pleasure.

Vérité Film Magazine was fortunate enough to talk with filmmakers Brian McGuire & Bret Roberts about Prevertere when they visited the festival. The interview has been optimised to be watched full screen at 720p, which can be adjusted in the control panel when the video is played

I also conducted a post-film Q&A at the Raindance Film Festival

First published by Vérité Film Magazine on September 28, 2013

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