The Misogynist (2011) – By Matthew Saliba

As any artist can tell you, there is no pill more bitter to swallow than that of "writer’s block." As a writer/filmmaker myself, I’ve been there far too many times to count. Perhaps I ought to take up murder as a means to clear the gutters whenever the ol’ noggin gets a cloggin’ as it seems to do wonders for the protagonist in "The Misogynist," a film by Chai Dingari.

The film centers on Harlan (a brooding Pascal Yen-Pfister), a photographer whose glory days are clearly behind him. He spends his days regaling his wife (Rhea Sandstrom) with vivid descriptions of his nightmares while paying visit to his agent/Father Confessor Frost (played by the ubiquitous Timothy J. Cox), the latter of which proves to be worthwhile as he’s encouraged to seek out something fresh. So naturally, like any artist in a fix, he turns his camera on his own life, namely his wife. She doesn’t particularly care for this and before too long, her face is knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door – literally.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with this film per se. From a technical standpoint the exterior cinematography is just breathtaking. There’s a little montage at the beginning of the film that wouldn’t look out of place in a Michael Bay film in terms of its glossy sheen. Performances are solid all around with Pascal Yen-Pfister doing his best Jean Sorel impression and Timothy J. Cox channeling his principal character from Matt Porter’s "Gunderson’s." Even the story itself is somewhat engaging, particularly the opening sequence in which Harlan talks about his nightmares.

But on the other hand, for everything that works about this film, there’s something that makes you just scratch your head.

For starters, the interior cinematography is just awful. Lots of flat lighting and odd choices in camera angles (note the opening sequence in which Harlan and his wife are going back-and-forth with each other; these are supposed to be POV shots, but the eyelines don’t match at all and the characters aren’t really looking at each other). Rhea Sandstrom feels miscast as her role calls for a stronger presence to hold her own against the likes of heavyweights like Yen-Pfister but we don’t really get that with her. And finally, the script itself. Let’s start with the title. A title is everything, particularly in the unglamourous world of indie short cinema. So I have to give points to Dingari for coming up with an eye-catching title. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t quite live up to its promising moniker. Granted, the ending could be seen as "misogynistic" but so can any murder in any given horror film. The film also feels torn as far as what it’s trying to say. Is this an examination of the struggle of an artist? Is this a horror film masquerading as a quasi-French New Wave mediation on relationships? Perhaps this is a film that could’ve benefited with an extra 10-15 minutes in order to flesh out some of the subtext.

At any rate, you can view the film online at: http://vimeo.com/36390095