As a fan of Ms. Menkes' films, I didn't quite know what to expect from her new feature film, Phantom Love. I have been a fan since seeing her six previous works--Soft Warrior, Great Sadness of Zohara, Magdalena Viraga, Queen of Diamonds, Bloody Child, and Massakre. What I love about Nina's work is that it is utterly brave, bold, and original! Nina dares to tap into something spiritual, mystic, subconscious...something undefinable, something magical... Her new film, Phantom Love, a stunning feature shot in black and white 35MM, seems even more daring and unique. From the opening frame, Nina steadies her shots with a hand-held, "raw" edge. She abandons some of her more formal static shots in favor of a roaming eye...an eye that seems to dig down into her subject, dig a hole...pierce and burrow into the depths of the alienation and repression of her female characters. Her central character, a blackjack dealer living in Los Angeles, is somewhat reminiscent of Firdaus from Queen of Diamonds; but unlike Firdaus, this protagonist struggles with "family problems" such as an overbearing mother and psychotic sister. At one point, the "sister" disappears and seems to fuse into the psychic space of the protagonist/blackjack dealer. Typical of Nina's work, specific elements can be debated...and often the literal is less important than the subconscious space or the internal sensations awakened from a particular sequence... In the end, it seems a weight had been lifted as butterflies encircled the main character and she stood naked in the window of her medieval-style apartment. Perhaps this is a sign of hope...perhaps Nina will simple leave it up to the viewer to decide... No matter, I have rarely been so moved from viewing a film... Way to go girl!!!
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