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The Joy of Life2005

  • 3.8
In THE JOY OF LIFE it becomes immediately clear that landscapes, like people, are vulnerable. As long, meditative shots of San Francisco fill the screen, a voice-over supplies the voluptuously remembered trysts and crushes and lusts of a butch seeking love (told in the sexily pebbled voice of Harriet Dodge). Each frame is a portrait of some city block or building or view, often from a forgotten angle or exotic distance that leaves the major landmark obscured while some minor movements (tiny birds taking flight, a tree blowing in the wind, red lights blinking at an intersection) take the lead. As it would on a long bus ride through all-too-pretty terrain, the mind wanders with the story, then is whipped back to attention by the brilliant but infinitesimal, something exquisitely susceptible, like one small live wire, dangling dangerously from telephone poles that rise like crucifixes above a city block. Melancholia, at once transient and beautiful, occupies every inch of the audiovisual space the way San Francisco's fog forecloses on day. Jenni Olson's film mourns the way a film by Hirokazu Kore-eda does, with distant shots that won't let you come right up and touch the trauma but that make the aftermath all the more real by being opaque. Its essayistic narrative feels "Su Friedrich serious" and its visuals "James Benning concentrated." But Olson's film finally pivots on archival fascinations (a discussion of the production history of the Frank Capra film MEET JOHN DOE and the fates entwined with San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge). If the narrative feels distanced and postmodern and its style as far from didactic documentary filmmaking as it could be, its hope is still, truly, that concerned citizens will carry the day. - Susan Gerhard

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3 members like this review

Such a fan...thank you to Conor Bateman from 4:3 and Fandor for making me discover such a wonderful film. Looking forward to The Royal Road

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Member Reviews (3)

Acd0d91f55f3bedb5458598b83358080?default=https%3a%2f%2fd3uc4wuqnt61m1.cloudfront.net%2fassets%2favatars%2ffemale%2favatar f 0062
top reviewer

Such a fan...thank you to Conor Bateman from 4:3 and Fandor for making me discover such a wonderful film. Looking forward to The Royal Road

3 members like this review

A beautiful rendering of San Francisco, warts and all, against an audio background that is always engaging.

1 member likes this review

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