Rebecca H. (Return to the Dogs) -- Film Review



CANNES -- The American independent/experimental filmmaker Lodge Kerrigan is nothing if not artistically gutsy. Ever since his first, superb film in 1994 -- a chillingly intense portrait of a schizophrenic called "Clean, Shaven" -- he has been boldly going where no filmmaker has gone before. "Claire Dolan" (1998) was leaden and impenetrable, as was "Keane," which came out in 2004, though once you found out that the endlessly followed lead character in "Keane" was frantic because he was searching for his lost daughter, the film dramatically improved, in both senses of the phrase.

This year at Cannes, Kerrigan presented a film called "Rebecca H" -- the "return to the dogs" part remains a complete mystery -- that focuses on the French actress Geraldine Pailhas, who is starring in a film that Kerrigan (whom we see playing the director Lodge Kerrigan) is making on Grace Slick, the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane back in the 1960s.

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Many potentially rich Brechtian ideas are put into play, but unfortunately few of them are endowed with enough clarity to make them cohere. Pailhas also seems to be playing two characters (besides Grace Slick), one of them an elegant actress beautifully coiffed, and another, scruffier in a ponytail, who suffers from bipolar syndrome. Indistinct flashbacks of someone being suffocated with a plastic bag over her head occur once or twice, and later we find out that they are actually flash-forwards.

In the middle part of the film, Kerrigan reverts to the obsessive following of characters that marked his earlier characters, but now Rebecca can only be seen from behind. Just guessing, this seems like an attempt at a Brechtian alienation effect, but only succeeds in alienating the audience. By the end, Kerrigan is obsessively trying to film Rebecca in a manner identical to the way Grace Slick was filmed in the famous Monterey concert of 1967. It would be great to find out why.

Venue: Festival de Cannes --Un Certain Regard