Title: A Love Affair of Sorts
Director: David Guy Levy
Starring: David Guy Levy, Lili Bordan, Jonathan Beckerman, Ivan Kamaras
A creative lifestyle breeds a certain amount of introspection in and of itself, as, often, does big city life. Combine those two facts along with the ironclad reality of further navel-gazing that the downward-spiraling cost of feature film production in the digital age encourages, and one has a fairly good idea of the framework that underpins ‘A Love Affair of Sorts’, an intellectually restless new indie film that, not entirely unlike Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi’s ‘Paper Heart’, blurs the lines of introverted romance, art project and mockumentary.
Working from a story concocted by its two stars, ‘A Love Affair of Sorts’ unfolds in Los Angeles over the span of about a week during the Christmas holiday season, and centers on a lonely painter and multimedia artist, David (director David Guy Levy). Already kicking around an idea to film himself as he interacts with the world, David meets Hungarian nanny Enci (Lili Bordan) in a bookstore, when he catches her on his ever-present flip-camera while she may or may not be trying to shoplift a tome. After a bit of back-and-forth, they strike up a friendship and enter into a pact to film one another, with the ethereal, esoteric goal of revealing and capturing their “true selves.” A more tentative romantic relationship then blooms between the duo, complicated by Enci’s quasi-boyfriend, Boris (Ivan Kamaras), and David’s brutally honest friend, Jonathan (Jonathan Beckerman). Are David and/or Enci merely posing and preening for the camera, or are they really falling in love?
It doesn’t give too much away to say that ‘A Love Affair of Sorts’ is both a delicate, mumblecore-esque romance, and a deconstruction of sorts of the same, delving into a modern generation’s penchant for stiff-arming the messiness of reality through the insertion and embrace of a technological filter, and a simultaneous discomfort with having cameras turned on themselves. (Everyone’s the star of their own reality show, but it’s not always pleasant to submit to someone else’s view of us.) There’s a nervous bundle of ideas and energy here, in other words. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really coalesce in a memorably meaningful way.
Part of the production story behind the movie is that ‘A Love Affair of Sorts’ is the first feature film to be shot entirely on flip cameras, an unverifiable novelty that allows for a small handful of striking verite compositions, but nonetheless eventually comes across as an excuse for a sort of stylistic sloppiness. Even though the construct of the film is built around David and Enci filming one another with two separate cameras, there’s not quite a strict enough adherence to a single form, which begs the question of pruning editorial influence: Who is putting together the film that we’re watching? There’s also a sequence late in the movie when Enci makes a phone call to David, who is visible in a reflected window. Regardless of whether one views or accepts this as on purpose or not, it doesn’t make narrative sense either way. Bits like this, along with the unvarnished limitations in sound design, hamstring and undercut its value as an intellectual cinematic exercise.
That said, there is enough here that’s if not exactly right then at least interesting enough for hardcore cineastes to give ‘A Love Affair of Sorts’ a pass, if not a warm embrace. It’s an intriguing misfire. Possessing that sort of schlubby Kevin James body type, Levy has a quiet, unforced charisma, and easy charm. And it’s interesting — at least for those with a high threshold for self-reflection — to ponder the interior walls and (growing?) interpersonal disconnect of a gadget-obsessed generation. In need of better plotting and execution, however, this ‘Affair’ just wasn’t meant to be.
Written by: Brent Simon