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French Signs is a wonder

Signs and Wonders (France)

Directed by Jonathon Nossiter

(Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Deborah Kara Unger, Dimitris Katalifos)



Infidelity. Deception. Spite. No, not expensive colognes, but rather the integral elements to Signs and Wonders, a deliciously interesting film from Jonathon Nossiter.

Alec and Marjorie are a married couple of seventeen years living in Athens, Greece along with their two young children. Both have successful jobs atop the aristocratic hierarchy. On one Grecian night, Alec leaves the house, crosses the street to a pay phone and calls his wife some hundred feet away, confessing an ongoing affair. And just like that we’re off, shooting the melodramatic rapids. This call permeates a hailstorm of relationship crises, uninterrupted for the remainder of the film.

Alec (Stellan Skarsgard) is a somewhat naïve theorist who believes everything happens for a specific reason. There is no erring in his cosmic plan. However, his obsession propels him to base, and eventually deconstruct his life on this principle. Alec’s fixation with this phenomenon only widens the gap between him and his family. Marjorie (Charlotte Rampling) takes on a new lover, the ultra left wing Andreas (Dimitris Katalifos) and Alec becomes jealous, expressing this emotion rather oddly. Progressively, Alec and Andreas jockey back and forth as the “alpha male” prompting Alec’s young daughter to begin her own form of terminal malevolence.

Signs and Wonders, at first glance, is an amalgamation of about fifty-eight styles of filmmaking. Director Jonathon Nossiter shot this baby on video, so right off the bat, it looks atypical. The camera lurks around corners, through ferns and windowpanes and over fences (a la Friday the 13th). Nossiter is suggesting our voyeuristic perception on these characters (especially Alec) is most definitely askew.

Adding to the intricacy is a unique musical score featuring work by Portishead and the classical heartthrob, 19th century pianist Erik Satie. This mishmash of audio stimulation spliced with the guerrilla warfare look gives off an air of anxiety that only gets quenched in the final few minutes.

– Sean McGrath

Signs and Wonders opens today at the U Film’s Bell Auditorium.

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