Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein

Mad Songs

It may be a 2001 movie, but this movie has 1990 slapped all over it. From the stone-washed Girbauds to the clamorous “dog pound” of Arsenio Hall, Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein really hits its periodical mark.

Set in New Mexico, Mad Songs follows three stories circulating around Desert Storm. The first deals with a woman who becomes subjected to harassment (and more) because of her last name – Hussein. The second follows a young man who butts heads with his father over politics. And the last story monitors a disillusioned soldier returning home after 8 months of fighting.

All these plots share similarities that tie them together at the end, not unlike a Seinfeld episode. This becomes erratic and bothersome at some points and just when one storyline attempts clarity, the editing transposes you to a throng of wholly new problems.

The stories themselves flirt with the dramatic but the acting seems very amateur, and coupled with the fact that this thing was done on 16mm, writer/director John Gianvito’s debut comes out looking like it was made directly for a substitute teacher. This is the movie you watch in your high school social studies class when the syllabus is misplaced.

There’s a strong possibility that every viewer will find something to take away. If not, wait five seconds and another story comes along in the film to bewoe your mind. By the end of the 168 minute movie, you’re just all-out exhausted. This isn’t Das Boot where three hours go by “immersed” in submarine warfare, Mad Songs is 168 minutes that drags on. Near the 145 mark, the movie becomes so friggin bizarre through high-speed shots of people dancing and a 40-story flaming wooden clown (I’m not kidding) that rolling your eyes and letting out a pained sigh is inevitable.

– Sean McGrath


Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein screens at the Bell Auditorium February 22-28 at 7:15 p.m.