Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle The Five Senses

By Marjorie Baumgarten

AUGUST 14, 2000: 

D: Jeremy Podeswa; with Mary-Louise Parker, Philippe Volter, Gabrielle Rose, Daniel MacIvor, Nadia Litz, Molly Parker, Pascale Bussieres, Marco Leonardi, Brendan Fletcher. (R, 105 min.)

Sensitively performed and carefully thought out, The Five Senses is a drama of interwoven characters, all of whom manifest some aspect of the modern difficulty in connecting with other human beings. As spelled out by the title, Canadian writer-director Jeremy Podeswa views this problem to be the result of an inhibition or limitation of our bodily senses. At least, I "feel" that to be the case because, to be honest, I don't exactly "know" what The Five Senses is trying to say. It takes place in Toronto over a three-day period and is about as schematic as dramas come. Each character represents a particular sense, and their storyline shows us how their special acuity or sensual failure affects the general conduct of their life. There's Ruth (Rose, who also played the bus driver in The Sweet Hereafter),a massage therapist who touches strangers all day long but has difficulty reaching out to her teenage daughter Rachel (Litz). Ruth (who represents Touch) asks Rachel (who represent Sight) to take the small child of a client (Molly Parker) for a walk in the park. However, Rachel, who is something of a voyeur, loses sight of the child and sets off a three-day manhunt for the lost tot. Living in the same building as Ruth and Rachel (Oh my, are these problems as old as the Bible?) is Richard (Volter), the eye doctor who is going deaf (Sound), and Rona (Mary-Louise Parker), the cake decorator whose creations are gorgeous but inedible (Taste). Rona's best friend is Robert (MacIvor), a bisexual house cleaner who believes that he can smell true love (Smell). Robert spends much of the movie sniffing out old lovers, while Rona deals the visit of a zestful but non-English-speaking, lover from Italy. Meanwhile, the eye doctor desperately embarks on a quest to catalogue all the sounds that he will soon be unable to hear. All these characters make headway during the course of the film toward having the kinds of human contact they desire, although none of them could be regarded as major success stories in this area. But neither are any of them losers. This simply seems to be the human condition, the struggle for a fully integrated identity. Podeswa errs by emphasizing his schematic at the expense of a fully integrated story, a similarity The Five Senses has with his earlier film Eclipse. The Five Senses, despite its good performances, is like looking through a filmmaker's sketchbook: strong outlines but little substance.

2 Stars

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