While most of the time I go see films I think and hope I’ll like, Cinequest is an opportunity to get outside your comfort zone and see things you might not. The Purple Onion was just one of those films. While a work in progress and a rough cut certainly sets a slightly lower expectation, it was billed as a dramatic comedy and I struggled to find anything dramatic or funny about it. Uncomfortably awkward, seriously depressing, confusing and genuinely a turn off for me, while watching this film, I was worried my face would get stuck in permanent sneer.
It felt disconnected and disjointed from the beginning and I was frustrated with these characters. I didn’t get them, like them, care at all about them aside from a turtle. As a rule, I feel there’s only so many times you can watch a guy masturbate on-screen, before it just seems like…well… cinematic masturbation. We get it. He’s a guy and he’s especially lonely and given some other scenes, we can conclude he has some additional issues he doesn’t see as issues.
I like to think that there is always a take away; no matter how much you dislike a film there is value to seeing it, it’s never a waste. In this case, a wonderfully eclectic soundtrack that worked to precisely score the scenes with no dialogue, a very interesting turtle that didn’t get enough screen time, and a half a dozen very well composed, striking images made up the total plusses in my book. I was waiting for the film to end rather than following it. I was completely uninvested in it.
On the plus side, I didn’t walk out, so while unrecognizable at the time, there must have been a sense of hope I suppose somewhere in there. I will say this, interestingly enough, there were more opinions and debate and conversation that occurred after this film than almost any other I’ve seen this festival. My group of friend did feel strongly and not all disliked it as much as I did. There seemed to be a gender split too with more men finding it relatable and less perverted than the females I was with did. We certainly WANTED this film to be better, so I guess on some level we must have cared some. Also, it should be noted that I couldn’t stand Lost in Translation and that won an Oscar. So, there’s that.
Art moves and even if that movement is toward the door or the razor blades, I cannot say this film did not stir up feelings. In that respect, it did its job. Perhaps the feedback and edits will streamline this into a much tighter and effect short or bring out a clearer, more universal through line in a final cut. Sadly though, based on what I saw, a wholly unpleasant film for me. 1 ½ jewels out of 5 in the review tiara. The Purple Onion has one more scheduled screening this Saturday, March 15th at 9:15pm.