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Produced By Alexandra Spector
Written and Directed By Kyle Broom
Starring Jesse Woodrow, Tamzin Brown,
Ana Corbi, Chris Carlisle, Chris Heltai,
Amber Friendly, Lisa Valerie Morgan

Interesting, unique, semi-experimental indie follows a young couple – Maximilien, an up and coming artist and Sara, an ambitious art critic – who hole up in a cabin in the woods so that Max can demonstrate his new “painting system” which he feels will revolutionize the art world; Sara is planning to write a killer article about her beau’s breakthrough to catapult her career.

The film’s title is a play on Tableaux Vivant, a silent, motionless group of people arranged to represent a scene or incident (I had to look it up).

In fact, there is an interesting aside about a tableaux vivant featuring Friedrich Nietzche that sorta-kinda figures into the plot.

The first chunk of the film has a lot of sorta-kinda in an entertaining, art film manner.

The opening is a gruesome depiction of the death of the Black Dahlia, followed by a car conversation with an amusingly artificial background, followed by the couple’s first meeting, which is interrupted at one point to depict the unseen screenwriter editing the scene on paper, which then changes the scene itself, and so on.

Once the couple heads up the mountain into the woods, Vivant does settle into a fairly straightforward narrative about Max’s development and demonstration of his new “system”, and the couple’s growing obsession with the resulting, hypnotic paintings.

The shift from all over the place-ness to the narrative thrust is a terrific scene that is exactly the kind of scene screenwriting classes and books tell you to never, ever write.  It’s quite long, full of exposition/explanation and debate, and is intellectually heady.  Fairly deadly stuff for a mainstream audience, but if you go with it, if you have any interest in art at all, it’s a riveting scene. Max explains his system in detail to Sara, which is basically a digital vs analog argument, but with paint!

This leads into Max’s demonstration, which has the two giddy with excitement. Soon, however, the paintings appear to take on a life of their own, to the detriment of Max’s and Sara’s mental and physical well-being.

The Black Dahlia, analog vs. digital arguments, etc. etc. never gel in a satisfying manner. But I doubt writer-director Kyle Broom had any interest in these threads being tied up in a tidy manner.  There are a lot of ideas in Vivant, some of them fleshed out beautifully, others just sort of tossed off.

This will, no doubt, piss off less-patient viewers, but I was never remotely bored.  It’s wildly uneven, but is always interesting, often fascinating and at times exhilarating.

The two leads have potent chemistry, and both give strong, charismatic performances. Jesse Woodrow nails the lovable asshole “artist” and Tamzin Brown oozes intelligence and sexuality; they’re both called upon to do a lot here, and they fearlessly jump in and are always convincing.

So, if you dig art, man, or just adventurous movies, give Vivant a shot, if only to see what will likely be termed “great early work” by Woodrow, Brown and Broom.

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