Joe wants his films to connect in that manner, not through plot or even character, but through experience. He wants to question how we engage with motion pictures, and, by extension, life itself. His “Memoria” will reportedly never have a physical release, only playing in theaters in a traveling road show, going across the country for years, one week at a time, starting this Sunday, December 26th, in New York City. While I don’t love what this means in terms of too few people being able to access great art, there’s a certain logic to this specific film being given the roadshow treatment. It is about experience. It’s a journey for those who are willing to take it.
Swinton plays Jessica, a woman who is visiting an ill sister in Bogota. There is immediately a sense of international displacement in that Jessica is from Scotland but lives in Medellin and is now visiting Colombia (it’s amplified by this being Joe’s first film that’s mostly in English). That displacement is enhanced by “the sound.” It opens the film, followed by the image of Jessica rising out of bed. Did she hear it too or was that just for the audience? She did and she begins to hear it more and more. Viewers will want to play detective. Does it come with stressful situations? There’s a dinner scene in which that seems to be the case. And yet anyone who has seen a Joe film will know answers are unlikely to be given.
Jessica’s journey gets more unsettling. She meets with the aforementioned technician to figure out the origin of the sound more than once, but he appears to not exist when she returns to see him again. Similarly, at the dinner, she’s told someone she was certain had died is still alive. It’s as if her entire existence has been slightly displaced. She wanders the streets of Bogota until she’s finally away from the noise of the city. Maybe here she can to get the bottom of what’s happening? Probably not.
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