Five Senses, The (1999): Directed by Jeremy Podeswa

Fine Line release

 

Multiple story lines define Jeremy Podeswa’s “The Five Senses,” which won the prize for best Canadian feature at the 1999 Toronto Film Fest, after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Fest. 

 

In his second feature, the openly gay writer-director Podeswa refines the style of his first, explicitly gay feature “Eclipse.”

 

Using an episodic narrative, in the manner of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films (“Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia”), “Five Senses” interweaves the lives of five troubled individuals who live in the same apartment building.

 

A single mother entrusts her three-year-old child to her therapist’s teenage daughter, who loses the kid in the park across the street, while spying on a couple making out in the bushes. Rather schematically and a bit pretentiously, each character represents one sense.

 

Ruth (Gabrielle Rose), a massage therapist, has lost touch with herself, and unburdens her guilt over the missing girl with the child’s distraught mother (Molly Parker). Ruth’s delinquent daughter (Nadia Litz) explores voyeurism with a cross-dressing boy. Robert (Daniel MacIvor), a bisexual housecleaner with a sensitive nose, is being courted by a married couple. His best friend, Rona (Mary-Louise Parker), a baker who makes flavorless cakes, sleeps with an Italian she met on vacation. Finally, Richard (Philippe Volter), a French eye doctor who is going deaf, creates a mental library of sounds, finding solace in the arms of a friend (Pascale Bussieres).

 

Like Atom Egoyan, his Canadian fellow-director (who’s far more accomplished), Podeswa is intrigued by loss and alienation, as by-products of postmodern life.

 

The film benefits from Podeswa’s elegant style and graceful humanist touches, not to mention the talented ensemble, particularly its femmes, Mary-Louise Parker and Molly Parker.

Even so, in more than a few moments, the film is too restrained and even dull, dutifully plodding along its story lines