Strip Search follows several parallel stories examining personal freedoms vs. national security in the aftermath of 9/11; two main subplots involve an American woman detained in China and an Arab man detained in New York City.
A rare film in that it presumes intelligence and imagination are virtues that one can expect from an audience. A patient, dense, elegant film, it tracks a compelling, odd, coldly romantic (!) character (wonderfully explored by the always-beguiling Martin Donovan) as he circles a curious young actress (the wondrous Irene Jacob in her most mesmerizing performance). It is the manner of the circling that is so peculiar: it is all done through a series of working sessions for a film project that may or may not be real. It is much more than a clever device. It is an oblique and surprising meditation on men and women, in the guise of a spry, stylish 'relationship' film. The interior lives of the characters are beautifully created in a series of tableaux, that seem simple, but are wonderfully imagined and always moving forward.
The touching, smartly playful and clear direction of writer/director Alan Wade give the film a tone that leads inexorably to a truly moving, quiet, uncompromising ending. The last moments of the film are the perfect closure to a film that is quite unusual in it's ambitions and it's subject matter. Martin Donovan, even when completely still, gives the impression of intense, personal thought. So does this film.
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