TIFF 2023 | The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed (Joanna Arnow, US) — Centrepiece

By Saffron Maeve

Making onscreen BDSM appear tedious and pedestrian is a great bit, not only because it seems to encapsulate the sexual incongruity of New Yorkers within a particular age bracket, but because it desaturates the very act of sex; it’s as if we’re watching a faucet drip or a mattress inflate. As with her previous shorts Bad at Dancing (2015) and Laying Out (2019), and her documentary i hate myself 🙂 (2013), writer-director Joanna Arnow assumes the position of a gauche, idling millennial, Ann, who is navigating a merger at her stale corporate day job and a decade-long relationship as a submissive to an older man, Allen (Scott Cohen). 

In a state of sexual and emotional ennui, Ann assumes a rotation of new doms; chiefly, an eager film composer and a businessman who insists she be his gagged “fuckpig,” communicating only in stifled oinks. Mumblecore instigator Andrew Bujalski has called Arnow’s work “excruciating and extraordinary,” though the latter seems at odds with the obsessively mundane efforts of this filmmaker. Arnow’s spate of impasses are exhausting to observe, and whether or not that be the point, the entire experience is not unlike plunging into the shallow end of a lukewarm pool.

sford@cinema-scope.com Maeve Saffron