Souvenir (2006) – By Joshua LeSuer

 Art isn’t the cuddliest of mediums. Anyone who’s ever been to the Smithsonian knows the drill: Sharp implements away, book bags dangled off one shoulder, don’t linger by a panel for more than a few minutes (art is meant to be shared!) and steel yourself for the rubber glove treatment on the way out, in case you’ve squirreled away a curio or two up your crevice.

"Souvenir" is an arty film about art. Atmospheric as a Goya and drowsy as a docent’s drone, the movie is a standoffish piece, a bell jar beauty. It invites you to behold, but from afar.

The film centers around African funerary poles, Easter Island-looking totems worth many millions, stony relics of Colonial tyranny. The film revolves around Ivy–who carries herself like Judi Dench and has absolute zero eyes.

She wants nothing more than to bury these remnants of her murderous father’s nasty past. Unfortunately, funerary poles are a hot commodity (although, I can’t imagine anyone wanting these ferociously hideous things gloating over them in their living rooms) and the highbrow hyenas are circling.

In the opening minutes of "Souvenir," characters wander out of smoke, like Shakespearean specters. They seem to dwell in worlds of half-shadow, their lives constricted by the darkness and what lurks therein. In "Souvenir," memory is magnetic, drawing everything back to it. Art is the distillation of imagination and remembrance, the knitting of past, present and future with the real and unreal.

In "Souvenir," we meet people who live in that nexus world, where the bad blood and bitterness of the past and the weightless otherworld of the channeled dream meet in a queasy collision, guilt, ghosts and gore.

Watching "Souvenir," I felt like I was taking a microscopic peek at the cellular structure of film, itself, seeing how film draws its mystery and magic from art’s secret symbols, crowded corners and heavy hues.

If you’d lke to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.kanalyapictures.com/souvenir_home.htm.