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Sara
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Jean
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Josh
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Matthew Bralow ...
Chessplayer
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Mother
Michael Latshaw ...
Father
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Brother
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Dance Student
Ibrahim Toure ...
Jean's Friend
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A young ballet dancer explores her emotional and sexual world
27 May 2004 | by See all my reviews

Kevin Asher Green's HOMEWORK is a visual storytelling masterpiece. The drama is narrated with minimal dialogue and yet the lush imagery and photography tell the entire story.

The story is that of Sara, a young ballet dancer played by the pouty Paz de la Huerta (The Cider House Rules), who is wafting between boredom and the pursuit of perfection in her upper crust life. Snugly fit between a chess-addicted pseudo-intellectual boyfriend, bulimia and constrained classical dancers, her life seems void of sensuality and inspiration. That is, until she meets her match in Jean (Isaach De Bankolé), a West African plumber from the opposite side of town who has been called upon to fix her bathroom sink. He tells her that he too is a dancer, and before you know it, Sara is dumping multiple bottles of Drano into the pipes to provoke return visits to her New York Apartment with "three bathrooms for four people". Jean, it turns out, is an instructor in a dance studio in the same building as Sara's ballet class and he captures her attention through his natural simplicity and by the freedom of his movements. It is Sara's shipwrecked curiosity that ultimately prevails and explodes into a new awakening of her emotional and sexual world.

Green glides from scene to scene gracefully. His jump cuts make the movie fresh, as you never quite know when a scene ends or begins. This influence he says, is derived from Asian and French cinema. The influence of Wong Kar-wai permeates this quiet film, yet it feels wholly original. The film even takes on an architectural structure in its continuity and fluidity made real by cinematographer Richard Rutkowski (Chelsea Walls) in digital video. His graphic handling of neon lights, concrete landscapes and nocturnal scenes blur the life lines in this film both visually and metaphorically. With its intercut pacing (400 shots packed into an economical 57-page screenplay), the film relies on location, mood, color, and music rather than dialogue to tell its story. It draws the audience into two worlds, which are at once insatiably New York. Green has an admitted fondness for the repetitive shot, and repeatedly uses the same shot to underscore the ennui in Sara's life. Green is a genuine talent who has constructed a lyrical, minimalist and visually compelling film that transcends its astonishingly low budget. HOMEWORK needs no more words.


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