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Phantom Love2007

  • 3.3
It is difficult to imagine a better film about a woman's world of passions, desires, dreams, relations and reflections than Nina Menkes' PHANTOM LOVE. Shot in 35mm black-and-white with Director of Photography Christopher Soos' sublime lighting design, the film follows Lulu (Marina Shoif) on a metaphysical voyage through questions of identity. Is she a body, absently having sex with a mysterious man? Is she her intrusive mother or her deranged sister? Perhaps she is only a croupier in Los Angeles' Koreatown with perfectly polished nails? Her inner fight echoes woman's inherent struggle: quell desire and perform. She seemingly fights alone but, accompanied by a cast including bees, cats, a snake and an octopus, she transcends. Shoif's performance fittingly recalls the virtuosity of silent cinema's iconic players (such as Louise Brooks the original "Lulu"). Menkes blurs the lines between experimental and narrative filmmaking. By referencing Jean Cocteau, Jacques Demy and even Snow White, she places her tale within a larger tradition of avant-garde world cinema. - Stela Jelincic

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Stanley Kubrick's confident statement -- "If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed" -- receives stunning confirmation in Nina Menkes' "Phantom Love." - Robert Koehler, Variety

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Member Reviews (7)

25f985e02666d567fe66051c59b2fbdb? m 0009
top reviewer

There was so much potential in this film I really wanted to like it, but when well into the film it became clear the story line was going to remain elusive at best I found myself losing interest in the film, which is too bad because it had many interesting elements and a strong mood. At the film's start, we see a woman with a man on top of her going at it, while her face and body remain impassive. It's a good start, because there's humor and interest--what is the situation? We learn she works in a casino . .. she has a very troubled sister, and a troubled relationship with her mother who she dreams about. The boyfriend is just a relationship of convenience. There are surreal elements, like the boa constrictor she must pass in the hallway. There is a shot of a baby left in a box in an alley way . . . who, why, what are never answered. While a troubled past is more than hinted at, not much more is learned about the lady protagonist. The lead is a good actress, but the limited lines from her boyfriend (who is usually just shown from the back) have the delivery of a student film actor. The film's cinetmatography, soundtrack and mood are all very interesting, just longed for a little more substance to latch onto.

1 member likes this review
2e96eff8174b408fe68458c53c86b24b? f 0025
top reviewer


1 member likes this review

As other reviewers have said, this has a dreamlike quality and logic to it, and it captures the texture of dreams convincingly. The only thing I'd wish for in it is more exposition - who the character is and what got her to the point in time the movie depicts.

1 member likes this review

There's mise-en-scene and then there's just letting the camera role capturing whatever and then hoping it's meaningful. That's what this film is, a bunch of stuff thrown together with hopes that something comes of it. Time is preciouses, don't waste it on this introspective blah blah blah...

1 member likes this review
top reviewer

Like the other reviewers here, this film is just lacking. I really wanted to like it, and it seems like it would have been awesome. It just wasn't.

top reviewer

Ordinary, everyday things - images on a television, a woman filing her nails with an emery board, the sounds and rhythms of a casino - are held so long and with such unusual attention that they become unreal, extraordinary. Strange, surreal things - an enormous snake in the carpeted hallway of a hotel, a levitating woman, a swarm of bees next to a woman considering herself in a mirror - take on the concrete authority of the real. The dislocation experienced by both the central character and the viewer is both unsettling and compelling.

This is the type of film I am predisposed to love. I have watched it twice and outside of the Tarkovsky homage I hate it. It is an enigma wrapped in pretension and convolution parading as cool wit and genius. The problem with the ethereal, ephemeral or whatever style of film one might be inclined to call these pictures is they can go wrong in a hurry.. It is not easy being Tarkovsky, Weerasethakul or isn't. Case in point. Granted there are a few moments to appreciate in this arthouse tire-fire but those moments are few and far between and always fleeting.