Film review By L.C. Cragg
Shot in black and white in the spirit between “Whatever happened to Baby Jane?” Whatever happened to Baby Jane? and a classic ““ The Twilight Zone” episode, this surreal psycho drama reflects stylistic choices that provoke and entertain. The main character, Miriam Kohen (played by Laura Esterman ) is an eccentric old woman(74), who paints and lives as a recluse in her upscale Manhattan neighborhood mansion.
The film’s accomplished Cinematographer Frederic Fasano , along with Director/ Producer Saskia Ripkin’s distinct style, work well in this arthouse type genre. To some extent only the more sophisticated of audiences will realize that this is not necessarily the story’s reality but Miriam’s reality. The film’s themes of isolation, artistic freedom, unsuccessful attempt of society to bureaucratize managing an aging population, and greed, provide a number of thought provoking ideas. Plot wise while we churn along with Miriam’s plight of neighbors and family who want her out of the valuable, but deteriorating property, the story effectively dances on the line between surrealism and reality, with some comedic moments to relieve disturbingly escalating tensions.
While the film does not directly deal with the question, “ Can Hitler Happen Here? “ it does raise issues of personal freedom and the right to own property, which are the first rights seized by a fascist state looking to gain power. While the film has a short running time of 73 minutes it still could have used some editing. At post screening Q & A Woods Hole Film Festival 2017, Ripken shared that as she as Esterman became more comfortable with each other during the shooting , Rifkin became more demanding of Esterman’ s performance, which both agreed contributed to the quality of the film.
This film reflects a tight working crew and an accomplished cast, which one hopes will find the resources and time to work together in the near future.