Review by Jenny Jediny
Posted on 30 April 2007
Source Theatrical Print
Features: The 2007 Tribeca Film Festival
Intentionally structured after Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, Aimee Jennings So finds a filmmaker questioning her sense of self on a trip to Australia. Primarily composed of still photographs, So features Jennings’ own Markeresque — or introspective — voice-over narration, but reveals a far more specific background on its chronicler and director; in the midst of an identity crisis, Jennings’ trip is the realization of a life long dream, and her musings reflect the fulfillment (or lack thereof) her journey has produced.
Jennings’ appropriation of Marker’s style is most evident in the first half of the film—lifting from Sans Soleil almost directly, Jennings recites a letter to an unknown individual in narration. Mulling over the famous landmarks of Sydney, Jennings drifts in her thoughts; she issues self-deprecation with ease, remarks on the odd feeling of concealing one’s identity from a stranger, and even connects with local wildlife (although with hardly the same devotion Marker has for his beloved cats). Jennings’ frequent poses with the koala bear creates imagery far too similar to a tourist’s scrapbook, not than the imaginary aura of a foreign visitor acutely observing while adrift in the Marker landscape.
It’s a pallid imitation, and the film’s inability to move beyond the surface level is what inevitably keeps So from forming into a fully introspective piece. Jennings frequently quotes, not merely on a visual level, but reciting lines from Dante and Dorothy Parker, and of course Marker himself. Unfortunately, this technique only creates a tone similar to the motivational quotation books aimed at the Chicken Soup for the Soul crowd, a disappointing result considering the core inspirational material remains thought provoking more than a decade after its release.
Despite its initial potential, the soul searching in So ends as Jennings concurs her fear of bungee jumping, a physical task that fails to cohere with the pseudo philosophy sprinkled throughout the film; although I can’t deny such a sport requires an enormous amount of nerve (as does sky diving, Jenning’s other arbitrarily chosen extreme sport), it’s ultimately a shallow victory.