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Life During Wartime

Submitted by admin on August 27, 2010 – 6:54 pmNo Comment
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Sitting through Life During Wartime has a slight resemblance to listening in to a psychiatric session with writer/director Todd Solandz. There’s no connection to the Talking Heads song “Life During Wartime” although there is a song with that title heard during Solandz’s film, one time sung by Shirley Henderson, one of several actors in the expert ensemble cast.

Life During Wartime unrolls with the best cinematic intentions. The lighting and composition has rarely been better in an art film, and the acting is simply stunning. Who would’ve thought you’d be jolted with electric perfs in a single film by Henderson, Allison Janey, Ally Sheedy, Paul Reubens, there’s a few more. Everything is hooked together with a tenuous glue of sadness in the cosmology according to Solandz. Evidently his multiple thematic references to child cruelty or molestation (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, or every film he’s ever made) were not enough to get it out of his system so here we are back again.

There’s theatricality to Life During Wartime that evokes laugh lines with the rapidity of Neil Simon only at these lines you don’t laugh out loud. Rather you think that would be really funny if it wasn’t so damn tragic. At the same time the whole affair has the feeling of Ionesco the proceedings are so patently absurd even while adhering to rules of reality. But the form Solondz uses is pure cinema, a kind of interlocking chain of cruel visual irony that brings all the characters together even though in the end it drives them all apart. I particularly liked the discussion on forgiveness and forgetting that ties into LDW’s repeating motif of misunderstanding.

- Michael Bergeron

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