The Center of the World directed by Wayne Wang, written by Ellen Benjamin Wong, Wang, Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt and Miranda July, produced by Wang and Peter Newman, with Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Carla Gugino and Balthazar Getty. 97 minutes. An Artisan production. An Odeon Films release. Opens Friday (May 11). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 97. Rating: NNN
does anybody look good on video that's been transferred and blown up to 35 mm?
In Wayne Wang's The Center Of The World, Molly Parker plays a stripper who spends a weekend in a hotel suite with a rich, obsessed young dotcommer (Peter Sarsgaard) who's making a concerted effort to buy her love.
When the camera gets in close to the not-quite-pretty and extremely freckled Parker, and all that pixilated grain shows up, you start wondering if Sarsgaard may have had some kind of childhood sexual fixation on oatmeal.
An interesting, vaguely repulsive film, The Center Of The World is an anti-romantic comedy -- call it Pantsless In Las Vegas.
It's Gen X Cassavetes, really -- two characters wrapped in emotional doubt locked in a room and flailing against each other's defences while frantically trying to keep their own intact. While Sarsgaard and Parker struggle mightily with their parts, I started thinking the film would have been more emotionally intriguing with Carla Gugino, who has a couple of scenes late in the film, in Parker's role.
It's not surprising that Wang probably couldn't lay his hands on the budget to shoot on film, and the story's spiritual resemblance to porn makes his use of video almost appropriate. But Wang, whose filmography includes The Joy Luck Club and Anywhere But Here, has a decent eye and seems temperamentally unsuited to the grab-a-shot aesthetic of the shot-on-video movement.
Every now and then the film's intrusive hand-held intimacy gives way to an actual composed and framed shot, and the effect is jolting, as if the cinematographer had snuck in lighting at some point.
The way Parker is posed is peculiar, too. Since she's a serious actor (Kissed, Twitch City, Wonderland) and not a porno slut, she doubtless has very specific clauses about nudity in her contract, and one can see the care that's being taken not to give us the full Sharon Stone.
On the other hand, at least The Center Of The World wasn't made by the folks who made Baise-Moi.