Director: Gustav Deutsch | Cast: Stephanie Cumming, Christoph Bach, Tom Hanslmaier, Florentin Groll, Elfriede Irrall | Austria | Drama | 89′
In Shirley, Visions of Reality Austrian architect and filmmaker Gustav Deutsch daringly imagines a story behind thirteen of Edward Hopper’s most famous realist portraits of American life during the 1930s.
The Iconic artist was probably best known for his urban and rural scenes of detachment such as “Nighthawks’ and ‘New York Movie’. Deutsch opens each vignette – literally tableaux vivants – with a pithy news bulletin setting the scene for the unfolding, fictitious story of an actress whose unique experience takes place in New York from 1931 – 1963, and is immaculately filmed by cinematographer Jerzy Palacz, and gracefully performed by Canadian actress Stephanie Cumming (who looks rather like Jessica Chastain), her voiceover delivering the story from her unique POV. Her boyfriend Steve occasionally appears but remains silent but expression-filled.
Deutsch maintains the same calm frigid detachment from his subject matter. In this discrete and beguiling curio, the intrinsic feel of Hopper’s work is maintained by the garish brightness of starkly colourful interior scenes, envisioning a life beyond the isolation depicted in the soulless settings, occasionally accompanied by Christian Fennesz’ atmospheric score. In “New York Movie” Shirley muses vacantly over the life of a bored cinema usherette while “Intermission” sees her actually watching a French film with the comment: “intermission, like waking up from a dream”. Shirley projects no personality and is merely a elegant cypher frozen in an eerie time-warp as she muses reflectively over the historic milestones of the Depression, the Second World War, Civil Rights Activism and Vietnam, somehow creating a quiet sense of suspense in this sensuous and strangely affecting film. MT
ON BLURAY DOUBLE PLAY COURTESY OF EUREKA MASTERS OF CINEMA | 19 MARCH 2018