Love Story: Melbourne Review
Avant-garde New Zealand filmmaker Florian Habicht puts himself in the picture for this self-referential documentary filmed on the streets of New York.
MELBOURNE - A beautiful woman exiting the Coney Island train carrying a piece of cake on a plate prompts German-born New Zealander Florian Habicht to fall in love and make a film in the meta hipster romance, Love Story.
While it doesn’t quite deliver on the Truffaut-esque whimsy of the opening scenes, Habicht’s dreamy-eyed vision and original ideas make this quasi-documentary, which scooped up a Best Feature Film gong at the Aotearoa Film & Television Awards, a natural for the international festival circuit. Following its run at the Melbourne International Film Festival, Love Story could easily find a berth with an adventurous distributor and prove a hit with young inner-city audiences.
Habicht, playing the part of both director and subject, outsources much of the screenwriting to the extroverted denizens of New York City, blurring the line between real and surreal as he films himself making a film about his own pursuit of the subway beauty, who turns out to be a Russian-born actress named Masha (Masha Yakovenko). Not sure how to woo her, this amiable stringbean in a porkpie hat takes to the streets to interview random people as to how the courtship – and the film – should proceed.
Naturally, everyone’s got an opinion and Habicht incorporates their suggestions into the storyline as love blooms with Masha, his muse and co-conspirator.
Typically poised and articulate, the Gothamites’ innate confidence contrasts with the wannabe Romeo’s angular goofiness. “Tourist,” mutters a female stockbroker whom Habicht accosts in the back of a cab. But she goes on to offer helpful seduction advice and even signs a release form on camera.
A psychic is consulted and the filmmaker’s father Frank, himself an acclaimed photographer, appears via Skype with some wise counsel regarding the inclusion of a Michael Jackson impersonator.
Some of the developments are disappointingly predictable – a bout of impotence, a condom breaking, post-coital fireworks – and others are wonderfully off-the-wall (see the way in which a particular body quirk of Habicht’s boosts the faux couple’s intimacy.)
Habicht has carved a reputation in New Zealand for arty eccentricity mixed with boundless curiosity in films like 2003’s Grimm-inspired musical fairytale Woodenhead and offbeat documentaries Kaikohe Demolition and Land of the Long White Cloud. The high-energy flakiness of New York City makes it the perfect playground for him.
Cinematographer Maria Ines Manchego shoots the acted-out part of the love story with flair, while the interspersed interviews are shot guerrilla-style with a handheld camera. An old-fashioned jazzy score enhances the sense of this summer-in-the-city romance also serving as a Woody Allen-type love letter to the Big Apple.
Venue: Melbourne International Film Festival
Production company: Pictures for Anna
Cast: Masha Yakovenko, Florian Habicht, Frank Habicht and the people of NYC
Director: Florian Habicht
Screenwriters: Florian Habicht, Peter O’Donoghue and the people of NYC
Producer: Florian Habicht
Director of photography: Maria Ines Manchego
Editor: Peter O'Donoghue
Sales: Metropolis Film, New Zealand
No MPAA rating, 91 minutes