Review Date: 7/27/05
Let me start with an admission: most Americans don’t like poetry. I’d rather believe otherwise, but ask any bookseller to point you to the slowest selling books in the shop. Sadly, you’d be led to the poetry section.
Someday, in that section, you may find the script for Yes, Sally Potter’s current film. For the most part, the script is written in rhymed iambic pentameter. And what a magnificent script it is.
Yes stars the great Joan Allen and an Armenian born actor named Simon Abkarian. They are, in the script, She and He, a pair of generically mythic figures whose paths first cross in a swanky London restaurant. They’re from different countries and vastly different cultures. But they’re both scientists. She’s a microbiologist. He’s a physician.
For the poetry-phobic who may be listening, I want to assure you that Sally Potter does not hit us over the head with her verses. Quite the opposite. The lines are written so skillfully, and delivered so well by the actors, that I, who have immersed myself in poetry for many years, didn’t realize the script was written in rhymes until midway into the movie. The poetic rhythms, while present to the attentive ear, are subservient to the meaning in the dialogue.
So please, do not pass on Yes because you fear you’ll be subjected to an hour and a half of poetry. What you’ll be subjected to is the amazing mind of Sally Potter and a wonderful cast that gives life to her words.
I liked almost everything about this production. The camera work is inventive. (In the first bedroom seen, look for the visual rhyme of the lovers’ bodies.) The editing is seamlessly clever and the score worth the price of a CD. I was surprised to discover that Sally Potter composed much of the music. Keep your ear on the alert. In the latter part of the film there’s a beautiful marriage of Eastern and Latin instrumentation.
So what’s it all about? Yes is really about the largest questions we humans ask ourselves, day in and day out.
Is there a God? If there is, can we be forgiven for doubting? Given the unfathomable cruelty we find ourselves more than capable of, how could the human mind not be sown with doubt? What is faith? What is our purpose? What is love? And it’s also about other large issues that may come in very small packages.
Some critics find Potter’s ontological musings pretentious. And they find her political ruminations simplistic. I don’t. That she has a point of view is undeniable. That it’s written large offends some. Not me. These are frightening times. Braver, if not better, to be up-front with ones leanings. Potter identifies her sympathies and views obviously, but always artfully. Her characters are intelligent. They’re not comic book creations. They’re racked with ambiguity, not so much about desired ends, perhaps, but how to get to them.
Sally Potter is touched with genius and Yes is one of the best films of the year.
My too frequent admonition applies to Yes. See it now, this week. It won’t stay long. Not only is it smart and superbly made. It’s kissed with the lips of poetry. That does not bode well for most films in our culture.
Three cheers for Yes, and three for the Nick – for making small but great films like this available to us.
For KUSP’s Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.