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`Love in the Time of Money' is an adaptation of `Reigen," Arthur
Schnitzler's scandalous 1897 play that follows a daisy-chain of sexual
encounters, where one person moves to the next, until it comes full circle
to the first in the chain. This debut film from Peter Mattei, also a
playwright and theater director, shows a promising filmmaker, but watch out
for the cautionary yellow flags.
The classic plot line has been seen by many films and stage productions, each with its own comment on how sex plays a role in the human spirit. In Mattei's version, sex is used solely as a coping mechanism when all else fails. In each vignette, an emotionally depressed person emotionally capitulates to another who appears to be emotionally stable. As the needy weans off the strength of the stronger, who is in turn strengthened by being needed, both try to fill their emotional reservoir. This ultimately leads to sex, but its short-term effects prove inadequate. When the realities of the stronger person come crashing down, this never-ending chain of events perpetuates from one person to the next.
The best part of the film is how very intense, complex human character is painted so concisely using the most minimal of brush strokes. Make no mistake, the characters are very abstract, and do not necessarily represent how we might envision realistic dialog, but that's not the point. Instead, their features are very intentional, accented in deliberate ways to punctuate and exaggerate primal motivations, frailties, and lusts in order to illustrate how we cope with life.
Much can be said about the script, though not all good -- it is inconsistent at times -- but it is, in many ways, artful and skillful in its depiction of deeper complex character profiles. While it isn't the audience's responsibility to recognize the difficulty in accomplishing this task with only a few short lines of dialog, Mattei does it well for a debut filmmaker. That said, won't appeal to most audiences, nor would he enjoy such leniency from critics in future films.
The worst parts of the film are too noteworthy not to chop several point off the top. First, the title itself (and the production notes) suggests that the reason for people's emotional and spiritual deterioration is somehow attributable to a financially rich society, where waste mirrors our loss of our values, purpose and meaning of life. Yet, that premise is never presented as a backdrop to any of the vignettes in the movie, and in only one case has money been the instrument of a character's downfall. The fact that the filmmaker lost his intended vision of the film is also evident in other aspects of the film, leaving its entire message or purpose unclear. One common element is the use of sex as the great savior of the spirit, yet no one ever wins, but this is more of a statement of the obvious than a compelling message or theme.
Despite my enthusiasm for the film's positive points, `Love in the Time of Money' is not for the causal film-goer. It requires a more adept indie-film aficionado and mature student of human nature to better appreciate its better qualities. Alas, the film's drawbacks, especially its lack of a more coherent message, leave it dry in the end. Still, I have to end on a high note, by giving it credit for depicting deeper, complex character profiles in short time-slices, a quality not easily done by debut filmmakers. Bravo for that.
(Question) What do you call 100 film critics buried up to their necks in sand? (Answer) A good start. Well, I don't know Peter Mattei from Adam but if he is the budding auteur his filmography suggests, "Love in the Time of Money" is a "good start". A classy shoot with whimsical music box style music, this flick looks at a chain of tenuous relationships as it moves from person A to person B to person C...etc...and back again ending with persons A & B in carousel fashion. The film gently probes the unhappy circumstances of nine people with finely rendered shadings beginning and ending with a street whore and her client. The downside of this film is the lack of a story which may have something to do with the many critical slams it received. I watched the behemoth "Angels in America" last night and was bored at the end while this little concatenation of character studies kept me spell bound. Use caution. I may be the only person who really liked this flick. (B)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film sat on my Tivo for weeks before I watched it. I dreaded a
self-indulgent yuppie flick about relationships gone bad. I was wrong;
this was an engrossing excursion into the screwed-up libidos of New
The format is the same as Max Ophuls' "La Ronde," based on a play by Arthur Schnitzler, who is given an "inspired by" credit. It starts from one person, a prostitute , standing on a street corner in Brooklyn. She is picked up by a home contractor, who has sex with her on the hood of a car, but can't come. He refuses to pay her. When he's off peeing, she answers his cell phone and takes a message. She runs away with his keys.
Then the story switches to the contractor, who pays a professional call on a rich, bored New York woman, who plays with him until he is aroused, then she pulls away. She tells him how desperate and unhappy she is; he tells her how beautiful she is, and lucky. As he is leaving, she asks if he would have sex with her. She sits on top of him, bounces up and down. This time he comes, the he leaves.
The woman and her husband throw a dinner party for their trendy friends. Hubby (Robert) is talking business, wife (Ellen) is bored, and switches the subject to sex, and how often men and women think about it. Husband switches conversation to desert. Later, after the guests leave, Ellen tries to entice Robert into sex. Robert wants none of it, and puts on a jazz record. Ellen turns on the radio; Robert turns up the music; Ellen turns on the TV; Robert turns on another TV. Cacophony ensues. Ellen goes up on the roof, Robert joins her. Ellen confesses that she needs to experience more men, men other than Robert. Robert says that he too needs to experience men.
We next follow Robert as he visits an artist, Martin, played by Steve Buscemi. I wish Buscemi could have more roles like this, where he is a sexy, smart, totally desirable guy. Robert praises Martin's work, much more than it deserves, promises to get it into a show. Martin is excited, until it turns out that Robert is speaking out of his groin, it is all a mating dance. Robert tries to kiss Martin, on the lips, and Martin pulls back, saying that he is not gay. Robert asserts that he's not gay either, Martin scoffs. Both admit that the artworks are bad. Robert is about to leave, when Martin allows Robert to kiss him. They make out, and Robert goes down on Martin.
Next we follow Martin, as he prepares for an art show at a Manhattan gallery. He is smitten by the receptionist, Anna, played by Rosario Dawson. (I had to cut some of this review to keep it under 1000 words) ... and they make love to each other.
We next follow Anna, who is sitting at a lunch stand. Her boyfriend, Nick (Adrian Grenier), enters, bearing flowers. She is cold toward him; he tries to figure out why. He coaxes out of her the information that she has had sex with someone while he was in San Francisco. She coaxes out of him the fact that he has stayed with his ex-gf while in San Francisco, and had sex with her. The latter revelation turns out to be a lie. The two of them make out in the luncheonette, but she decides that they must break up. Nick is heartbroken.
And we follow Nick, who confesses his troubles to an older woman who he meets on a park bench, Joey (Carol Kane). Joey is sort of weird and child-like, but is a good audience for Nick, who needs a sympathetic ear. The two of them go to Coney Island at night, and look at the stars. Nick falls under Joey's spell, despite the age difference between them. They go back to Joey's apartment, and Nick gradually realizes that he is about to have sex with a crazy old woman. She is on top of him, doesn't want to let him go. But he manages to escape.
(This is, by the way, the best Carol Kane role since she played Latke's wife in Taxi.) Joey's phone rings, and it is a man calling the Psychic Friends Network, and Joey is one of the psychic friends. Although she is still hurting from Nick, she gradually gets into her psychic shtick. The man is at his office, late at night, and wants to have phone sex with her. Although that is not Joey's business, Joey goes along, and coaxes the man to come. She wants to keep talking, although the man want to get off the phone, and finds out that he has embezzled a lot of money from his company, and will be found out tomorrow. His life is ruined. Joey realizes that the man is going to commit suicide, and she tries to make him believe that she is his friend, that she cares about him. And she does care about him.
But the man packs a gun into his briefcase, and goes off to seek a prostitute on the Brooklyn waterfront, and we come back to the beginning, to the same prostitute who started out La Ronde. She wants to give him $75,000 in cash if she will kill him. He tried to kill himself, but couldn't do it. The prostitute does not want to do it, but he insists, holding her hand, holding the gun inside his mouth, telling her where to aim. Eventually, the gun goes off, and we see the prostitute walking down the street, and arriving at the corner where she normally does business. The contractor who didn't pay her earlier in the movie drives up, rolls down the window. They look at each other. THE END.
Petter Mattei's "Love in the Time of Money" is a visually stunning film
to watch. Mr. Mattei offers us a vivid portrait about human relations.
This is a movie that seems to be telling us what money, power and
success do to people in the different situations we encounter.
This being a variation on the Arthur Schnitzler's play about the same theme, the director transfers the action to the present time New York where all these different characters meet and connect. Each one is connected in one way, or another to the next person, but no one seems to know the previous point of contact. Stylishly, the film has a sophisticated luxurious look. We are taken to see how these people live and the world they live in their own habitat.
The only thing one gets out of all these souls in the picture is the different stages of loneliness each one inhabits. A big city is not exactly the best place in which human relations find sincere fulfillment, as one discerns is the case with most of the people we encounter.
The acting is good under Mr. Mattei's direction. Steve Buscemi, Rosario Dawson, Carol Kane, Michael Imperioli, Adrian Grenier, and the rest of the talented cast, make these characters come alive.
We wish Mr. Mattei good luck and await anxiously for his next work.
I kind of enjoyed it until I nodded out on it. The structure is that of
a skin flick. Characters are linked as in La Ronde or The Leopard Man.
We meet Jill Hennesy, who is a class act, no doubt about it, and isn't
getting along with her husband, and so makes it with a plumber or
something. (Don't worry. The sex isn't explicit and there is no
nudity.) It's marvelous, though, to see Jill Hennesy, the modelesque
and feminist lawyer on "Law and Order" asking some surprisingly
sensitive goon who is trying to help her hang up a painting to do her a
favor -- "Make love to me." Okay.
She finds her husband, some kind of art dealer, not interested in her sexually. (!) She kisses him and tells him, "I'm horny," and he walks silently away and turns on his favorite jazz piano record, while she turns on every noisy appliance in their high-end apartment.
So why (you ask) is the husband indifferent to her charms? What's the matter with him. Is he gay? Well -- yes. Or rather bisexual, I suppose, since he married her in the first place. But hubby's real interest is in Steve Buscemi, an artist, and he comes on to Buscemi in a rather assertive manner and tries to kiss him. I don't know why. Buscemi is a great actor and a delight to see on the screen but, my God, he's got the canines of a vampire. Buscemi gently tells him, "I'm not gay." But then there is a love scene between them. I can't tell how explicit this was because I was covering my eyes and having an attack of homosexual anxiety.
Fortunately the next episode, involving Buscemi and Rosario Dawson, was enough to reassure me about my gender identity. Is there a greater constitutional puzzle than Rosario Dawson? Most people, at a glance, would classify her as African-American and yet she's a salad of racial genes, no more biologically "black" than "white" or "Hispanic". Something similar holds for people of mixed race like Halle Berrie and Mariah Carey. If you took all the genes of all the humans in the world and put them into a blender they would come out looking like these actresses (only more ordinary). They only belong to one or another racial classification because they -- and we -- say they do. This is known as "the social construction of reality." Now I'd like you all the read Berger and Luckman because there will be a quiz.
Next episode: Dawson has some sort of confrontation with her handsome white boyfriend. "We have to talk about this," she says. (I'm not making that up.) It was about this point in the movie that eurythmic breathing set in.
Anyway, you get the picture. One sexual episode leads to another, just as in a skin flick, except that here there is no nudity and any coitus we witness is simulated. In other words, in this movie, the emphasis is on the interludes between sexual encounters. And what are they like? They're like Woody Allen, that's what they're like. Ordinary little people doing ordinary little things that have to do with relationships. When Jill Hennesy and the picture-hanger are looking through a kitchen drawer for a hammer, they find there is no hammer. But Hennesy takes out one irrelevant item after another and dangles it before him? A box of staples. "No good?"
And at the bottom of the drawer, one of those flat plastic containers from a Chinese restaurant that everyone seems to save. "Soy sauce," says the plumber.
If it hand't been on TV at such a late hour I would probably have watched it through, although the ordinary little people, on screen or in real life, can be a little dull at time. Will Rosario Dawson reject Buscemi's appeal to let him paint her? I really didn't care except for the vague hope that we'd discover whether Rosario Dawson's figure was as mouthwatering as the rest of her.
An unambitious movie, but nice New York locations, and the acting is quite good really. It's Hennesy's best role at any rate.
Love In The Time Of Money is very representative of its era of
independent films. First, it is an ensemble piece, including frequent
"Indy" stars Steve Buscemi and Rosario Dawson. Second, it has an
interesting artistic mechanism to advance the plot: daisy-chaining from
one character to the next. Third, it's a lot of slice-of-life moments
with similar themes but no particular overriding plot. Fourth, there is
a lot of intense inner-city camera work, and diverse camera angles to
juxtapose, art, scenery, and faces. Five, the performances of the
members of the ensemble run the gamut of tired (Malcolm Gets) to
sublime (Carol Kane) and mostly solid with an emphasis on quirkiness in
So, with all the other bases covered, I read other IMDb reviews to make sure that it has the most important characteristic to be representative of today's independent films. Its supporters wax enthusiastically about how different its perspectives are from "your typical Hollywood films." At the end of the day, the film is blessedly short by such standards (87 minutes), and certainly watchable, so if you are looking to pass time, you could do worse -- but you could do better. For me, this defines mediocre. One notable exception: if you love Carol Kane who appears in the second half of the film with characters Nick and Will, take the time to see her magnificent performance -- easily the best in the film.
This movie is best watched late at night (if you can stay awake). It is 90 minutes long where the first 85 minutes are an odd and eerie sequence of scenes that seem to transfer from one character to the next in what appear to be chronological order. Then in the last 5 minutes the movie's point unfolds, and you're left with an interesting puzzle that may make you want to see it again: was the movie forward chronological, reverse chronological, disconnected, or an endless paradox that is broken in the "end", which is were the movie began? Makes me wonder if the title is a riddle, too. The first 5 minutes is also important, if you're trying to close the loop.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Overall, I enjoyed this film and would recommend it to indie film
However, I really want to note the similarities between parts of this film and Nichols' Closer. One scene especially where Adrian Grenier's character is questioning Rosario Dawson's about her sex life while he was away is remarkably similar to the scene in Closer where Clive Owen's character is questioning Julia Roberts, although it is acted with less harshness and intensity in "Love." Also note that "Anna" is the name of both Dawson's and Roberts' character. Can't be coincidence. Now Closer is based on Patrick Marber's play and supposedly this film is loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler's "Reigen" so I'm not sure how this connection formed.
Anyone have an idea?
As a fan of such films as "Mulholland Drive," "Memento," and "Before the
Rain," I have a predilection for films which require one to piece
clues within the plot in order to distinguish true happenings from false.
Initially, "Love in the Time of Money," did not strike me as this type of
film, however while driving home, the words of Carol Kane's eccentric
pig-tailed telephone clairvoyant came back to me. Kane's character was
suggesting that perhaps in another dimension everything is changed by
something so simple as a traffic light changing color a half-second
This sensibility is the essence of Mattei's film, which follows the
of interconnected people who unknowingly affect the fate of each
character. The question which the film leaves one with is: How much of
story really happened?
There is a beautiful scene between Carol Kane, as an aged flamboyant clairvoyant who falls for the young urban Adonis, Adrien Grenier. Notable performances are also given by Steve Buscemi, who plays a struggling modern artist with quiet restraint, and by the gorgeous Rosario Dawson, who plays the conflicted muse of two men.
Terrific film with a slightly slow start - give it a chance to get cooking. Story builds in interest and complexity. Characters and story line subvert expectation and cliche at all the right moments. Superb New York City locations - gritty, real - are a fantastic antidote to the commercial imperatives of "Sex in the City" - in fact, the entire film is an antidote to the HBO/Hollywood notion of New York City , sex and relationships. It's a rare film that treats its characters so honestly and compassionately. LOVED IT! Great cast with notable performances by Steve Buscemi, Rosario Dawson, and her love interest (forgot his name!).
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