Friday, February 7, 2014

Let Go and Let Goddess: "The Book of Jane" (2013)

Sometimes intriguing, sometimes incomprehensible, Antero Alli's story of a friendship between a university professor and a homeless person does not play out like you might expect.

Alice (Marianne Shine) is a tough comparative religion professor, settling down with her younger partner, Collette (Madeline H.D. Brown). Collette is an artist, and Alice is her muse. The first half of the film is seen through the eyes of Jane (Luna Olcott), a "nomadic" (not homeless) woman who lives by a creek on Alice's campus. She strikes up a conversation with the professor one day, and Alice is intrigued by Jane. Alice is working on a new book about Goddess theory, and Jane offers up intelligently worded questions and critiques, when she isn't crassly telling people about her constipation due to the intense medications she is on. Eventually, Collette and Alice invite Jane to dinner, and the second half of the film deals with the fateful night and how it changes the couple's lives.

Alli's film is a dense story that I am not going to pretend to completely understand. There are some wonderful visuals, I assume we are seeing what Jane's eyes see, but many of the philosophical conversations between Alice and Jane lost me. I don't have a background in comparative religion. What I did appreciate was Alli's direction. His camera is in the characters' faces, the viewer will feel like they are sitting with the actresses. He thankfully doesn't call attention to his vision, every shot seemed both natural and thought-out. Alli also does not man-bash for close to two hours. His script is too intelligent to take that easy way out.

The cast is excellent across the board, considering the difficult subject matter. I liked the characters, and want to give special notice to Felecia Faulkner as a detective brought in to question Alice and Collette at one point. The cast is small and wonderful. The song score is very appropriate, and Alli's cinematography is interesting. Technically, the film is well-made despite its small budget.

This is not a popcorn munching story for the masses. Alli seems to want to say something about feminism and religion, his other works also deal with more cerebral fare. It isn't for all tastes, but I found enough in "The Book of Jane" to recommend it. (* * * *) out of five stars.