I’ve yet to comment on my Whistler experience because Jay has already written in detail about our first two days and was so spot on with her reviews of Carol, The Life and Death of an Unhappily Married Man, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town, and Love that I felt I had nothing to add. It was Friday (or, as I kept calling it, “Sunday”) that I dared to separate from the other Assholes and brave the Whistler Film Festival alone.
Whistler itself proved easy enough to navigate. I managed to explore almost the entire village on foot in about half an hour and is structured in such a way that even I would find it difficult (though not impossible) to get lost. Her Composition was a different story. After a chance encounter with director Stephan Littger earlier that day, I had the rare and awkward treat of sitting next to him at the Canadian premiere of his debut feature. Littger had already expressed some apprehension about the disappointing speakers at the Village 8 Theater and made a point of encouraging us all to move up to the front of the theater to get the full effect. Sitting so close to him made his anxiety contagious and we both shifted in our seats when the DVD began to skip only a minute into the screening. The problem soon corrected itself though and I was able to relax and enjoy this fascinating and challenging film.
Her Composition is, thankfully, not a comedy, sparing me the pressure of laughing on cue. Malorie (Joslyn Jensen), like Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan, is an artist who wants to please her instructor so badly that she has trouble truly letting go. With her thesis composition due in a matter of weeks, she decides to start over. Finally getting out of her head, Malorie starts working as an escort and drawing inspiration from the sounds of the city and of her encounters with her clients. Her new unorthodox approach to songwriting feels empowering at first but the narrative begins to get darker and darker as her experiences as a sex worker get more and more dangerous and as her obsession with her masterpiece begins to border on madness.
Littger’s frustration with the house speakers is understandable. The sound mixing makes or breaks a film like this and Littger and his team have clearly put a lot of thought into how to communicate texture through sound. Malorie hears music in her head which, of course, is inspired by the sound and rhythm of the world around her. To communicate this to the audience- the relation between a man’s grunts during climax and the song in her head- is the hard part. It’s a work of exceptional editing and sound mixing.
Even if all the subtleties of the sound weren’t showcased as well as Littger would have liked, he’s still got Jensen- whose performance is nothing short of captivating. Her transition from teacher’s pet to tortured genius is believable every step of the way. I was disappointed that she was unable to attend the Canadian premiere last week because I would have been happy to meet her and congratulate her.
I hope a lot of people see this in theaters with speakers that would make Littger proud.