The term pretentious is thrown around quite a bit these days. Almost to the point where it has become such an unfairly used term that the meaning has completely changed. Going by the dictionary, pretension is the act of putting far greater value, or sense of importance and worth, on a piece of art than it actually deserves. However, within the film community, this word has been given new meaning. Essentially, "arty" and "pretentious" have almost become interchangeable. Any film that doesn’t play by an established narrative structure has become immediately deemed as "pretentious." A quick look over IMDB reviews for almost any David Lynch or David Cronenberg film should immediately turn up a few results. There are, of course, still films that fall squarely into Webster’s definition for pretentious, but I always encourage my fellow writers to be mindful when using any sort of hurtful words. My Name is A – by Anonymous is a film that will surely be referred to as pretentious by the IMDB crowd, but due to it actually having a point and being a very astute observation on the human condition, I don’t see it falling into Webster’s view of the word.
Telling a series of interconnecting stories, My Name is A – by Anonymous defies simple explanations. Focusing on a variety of characters, the film follows these very separate stories in a loose manner that will culminate in a very powerful way towards the end of the film. Each character seems to have a similar handheld camera with which they document their personal lives. We watch as two young girls showcase their brash attitudes for the camera, as we see them curse at one another and talk incessantly about lewd sexual activities. Then we follow a young woman who struggles with bulimia, who also currently lives with a man that she doesn’t care for. Finally we have a young Russian woman who lives as a struggling artist specializing in singing and painting. Although these ladies all seem very different and individual from one another, slowly their stories will come together in a very surrealist cinematic experience.
With a film such as My Name is A, the hardest part in discussing it is that you don’t want to ruin it for others. Similar to the better surrealist films out there, when you watch a movie and you think that you have a fairly firm grasp on understanding what the filmmakers were trying to say, you want to share that information. However, in a medium such as this, I am not allowed to give away much because then there is little reason for audiences to determine their own interpretations. While I do not want to tout the film as being a masterpiece, or even a movie in which I can honestly highly recommend, I have to commend the filmmakers because it is a truly imaginative and intriguing way to tell a story. The film seems defiant in following conventional rules for storytelling, but it actually manages to still use tools such as foreshadowing and visual clues. This doesn’t change the fact that this is a movie that many will not understand, but you can’t say that the filmmaker doesn’t actually have a very distinct idea about the meaning behind his film.
What will probably grab the center of attention in most discussions of the film are its most unpleasant attributes. There are three characters within the film that will more than likely grab most viewers by the collar. There are two very young girls within My Name is A who will likely be the center of much attention during any discussion of the film. Taking a page from Harmony Korine (Gummo) or Larry Clark (Kids, Bully), the film follows these two girls as they go on vulgar tirades and abuse each other with their words. Throughout the course of the movie, we will see these girls talk about sex, murder, and finally we will watch them as they begin a love affair with "cutting." These two push the boundaries of good taste, and offer a challenge to nearly any viewer. However, it is the bulimic character that will likely provoke walk outs during any theatrical showings. Vomit is a touchy issue for any audience, and My Name is A definitely looks to provoke viewers by presenting some very tough material to sit through. The young woman who plays this character seems to actually suffer from the disease. Although I have no background information on the film at all, I have to imagine she is indeed bulimic, or she is incredibly committed to her role. Very thin in appearance, the young woman battles her disease and vomits on screen several times throughout the film. This is not the sort of project that shies away from showing the full details of the act, either.
With all of this said, My Name is A – by Anonymous is a genuinely hard film to recommend to most audiences. So many will tune it out because of how difficult the narrative tends to be, and others will simply be too offended by what they watch on screen to try and understand. However, for truly open minded audiences it does offer an experience that is unlike any other. For those who can handle it, I highly recommend it. To read more about the project yourself, visit the official blog at: http://madsincinema.blogspot.com