Let me make a plea as the new decade begins: Todd Solondz’s “Life During Wartime” deserves U.S. distribution. I don’t know what kind of release would best suit the film, but I do know that it was the best English-language movie I saw last year on the festival circuit: After watching it at the New York Film Festival, I posted an inital response on my blog, writing that the film “may be the most thorough, penetrating and profound accounting of post-9/11 America and the nation’s utter and dysfunctional lack of compassion…. its haunting images and lingering sadness continue to stay with me. Actors Charlotte Rampling, Allison Janey, Paul Reubens, Ciarin Hinds and young actor Dylan Snyder all deliver individual moments of intensity and pain that I won’t soon forget.”
Months later, and many of the film’s images are still with me. The ghostly faces of Reubens, Hinds and Rampling; the dilapidated half-naked bodies of Allison Janney and Michael Lerner post-coitus; the darkly sardonic line “Nothing will get inside you ever”; the way the pastel color palette morphs from kitschy to intensely surreal and discomforting; and that mysterious culiminating shot, full of melancholy and the yearning of a young boy who wants his father back, no matter his crimes.
More than any other Solondz film, except for perhaps “Happiness,” “Life During Wartime” got under my skin.
And I’m not alone in my admiration for the film. Undoubtedly, Solondz’s style isn’t for everyone, but there are plenty of critical fans–a diverse group including Todd McCarthy (perhaps the biggest surprise), Deborah Young, Mark Olsen, Richard Corliss, Mike D’Angelo, Eric Kohn and others.
After I write this, I suspect someone will send me an email with the good news that the film has already been acquired. If not, then why not?