This article is from 2007.
Nina Menkes has been described as one of the most provocative artists working in film today. Phantom Love lives up to the billing, finds Paul Dale
One of the undoubted highlights of this year’s experimental Black Box strand is US filmmaker Nina Menkes’ black and white internationally roaming surreal familial drama Phantom Love. Menkes has been described as one of ‘the most provocative artists working in film today’ and has received high praise from filmmakers Gus Van Sant, Allison Anders and veteran critic Jonathan Rosenbaum among others. Of her new film she says, ‘It’s a surreal drama about a woman trapped within an enmeshed family. Shot primarily in Los Angeles [and India], the film combines fairytale elements with brutal black and white photography to create a powerful testament about one woman’s descent into Self.’
Among her influences, she says, are André Breton, Frida Kahlo, Robert Bresson, Max Ernst, Francis Bacon and Argentinean filmmaker Lisandro Alonso (Los Muertos, Fantasma). That’s quite some roll call. But, interestingly, Menkes considers herself first and foremost a commercial artist.
‘I always try to be commercial,’ she says. ‘But apparently the way I see things and experience things is very unconventional and consequently, since my films reflect my inner life, my films are considered unusual or avant garde.’
Watching Menkes’ films there is little doubt that hers is a remarkably fresh and challenging talent. Despite her evident aptitude for film, Menkes started out as a dancer.
‘As a teenager until around the age of 22 I was a serious dancer and my first film was about dance. I also was always into photography and spent thousands of hours in a darkroom printing my own photographs . . . when I found filmmaking these talents came together for me – movement, sound, interior worlds, photography.’
The 44-year-old American’s previous films have already garnered enormous praise from European and US critics and filmmakers at Sundance, Rotterdam and London film festivals. So the arrival of her newest film at this year’s EIFF really is something to be celebrated.
So what has she got lined up for audiences next? ‘Two new works: one is called Shivitti about a young male American backpacker who disintegrates in India and Heatstroke which is a surreal drama about two sisters set in Los Angeles and Cairo.’
Menkes looks set to be David Lynch’s natural cinematic successor. It would be a shame to miss her coronation.
Cineworld, 623 8030, 19 Aug, 9.15pm & 24 Aug, 8pm, £7.95 (£5.50).