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The War on Horror

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The three directors—Abel, Gordon, and Bruno Romy—are prodigious performers, and the movie they’ve cooked up plays like a circusy hallucination on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House addled with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I could throw in Laurel and Hardy and Jacques Tati, but the movie forges its own unique language. L’Iceberg is a procession of tableaux vivants: little proscenium stages, sometimes with rear-projected exteriors, on which enchanting slapstick routines erupt. There’s a giddy interplay of light and color and flabbergasting shapes, like the ovoid mouth of Abel as he yawns—the Munchian scream of yawns. I defy you not to gasp at Gordon’s wordless ballet under a white sheet, legs and limbs shooting every which way until the very image of the iceberg rises up from her bed. Not every sight gag works, and there’s a brief stretch in the middle where the action becomes landlocked. But once we’re out to sea the movie goes swimmingly—its three protagonists fighting, flailing, and often on the verge of drowning as their tiny skiff surges toward the land of the Inuit.

A skinny, freckled redhead, Fiona Gordon looks a little like Carol Burnett stretched out, and she has a similar dedication to her character’s lapses in sanity. Watch her ecstatic frug on the mud flats at low tide and marvel at those long, loose limbs, at the most lyrical spasticity in modern movies.

There is a hole at the center of Julia Loktev’s Day Night Day Night, a film that unfolds in what might be the final hours in the life of a young woman (Luisa Williams) as she prepares to blow herself—and a lot of people in Times Square—up. It’s the big “W”: “Why on earth did she decide to do this?” Not an easy question to dispense with, but it’s not as if Loktev forgot about it (click here to see Logan Hill’s story on the director). The film is, in fact, a cunning exercise in subjectivity and withheld information—and once you accept those parameters, it’s riveting.

The young woman (identified in the credits as “She”) arrives from across the country and is driven to a motel by the only conspirator (Tschi Hun Kim) whose face she and we see. It reveals nothing. Left in her darkened room, she bathes, brushes her teeth, and sits impassively. One by one, three hooded men arrive. The Commander (Josh P. Weinstein) drills her—in gentle, measured tones—on what she is to do, and on her cover identity if she’s apprehended. There is not a lot of talk. Her handlers give her a statement to read—posing with a rifle—on videotape, but Loktev cuts away (sly!) before she begins. Absent much discussion, Day Night Day Night is pure sensation.

Williams has an interesting, unusual face—the face of someone who keeps secrets from herself. The camera fastens on her as she walks around—and around—Times Square, intermittently stopping to buy junk food, which she eats with great intensity. She stands amid crowds on the edge of crosswalks—her features frozen and eyes bulging, as if she has been bitten by a poisonous snake. I’m frankly flummoxed about what Day Night Day Night adds up to, but its “You Are There” allure is potent.

28 Weeks Later
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Fox atomic. R.

L’Iceberg
Directed by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy. First Run Features. NR.

Day Night Day Night
Directed by Julia Loktev. IFC Films. NR.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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