NORTHFORK (Michael and Mark Polish, USA, 2003)
Though I’m unsure of my mixed reaction to LE CORBEAU, the other film I saw at the weekend, NORTHFORK, will not be the cause of a guilty “did I miss something?” second viewing. The latest film by brother auteurs Michael and Mark Polish has all the faults of TWIN FALLS IDAHO, compounded. It’s another Polish exercise in overwrought, portentous, obvious symbolism, only worsened here by attempts at deadpan comedy. It eventually becomes clear that it’s about a dying child (who, I think, sees angels) abandoned by his parents while six functionaries in drab black overcoats and hats make sure that a town about to be flooded for a lake has been completely evacuated. They see recalcitrants like a shotgun-armed man with his foot nailed to the floor, and another man who’s built an ark and has two wives (it feels like the Polishes tried to visualize the Police song “King of Pain”).
NORTHFORK combines an aggressively downbeat palette (if there was a single primary color in this movie, I missed it — all blacks, whites and sepias shot in a late-afternoon winter light) and attempts at comedy. but NORTHFORK is also the kind of movie where six characters will meet and say hello to all the other five by name. It’s aggravating as hell to hear “John, James, Bill, Mike, Willis,” followed by “John, James, Mike, Willis, Spike” [or whatever the exact names are]. For only about the fifth time in my life, I actually talked at the screen during a public theater performance, at the line where “Willis” says something inexplicable and then another character says … [maybe if you don’t know the punchline and didn’t see it coming, you won’t be as aggravated as I was, and say to the screen “oh, come on.”] It just throws you out of a movie to hear a 1970s sitcom line repeated in a portentous 40s allegory. Or for a character to obsess over a ding in his perfect car. It’s like throwing a jester onstage during OEDIPUS REX (gawd do these siblings make me appreciate the Coen Brothers more), and the film just finally drowns in its own arch … archness.