Soft in the Head Screen 7 articles

Soft in the Head

2013

Soft in the Head Poster
  • At once painfully awkward and brilliantly elliptical—and Silver’s penchant for reveling in cruel situations is saved by a sensibility that either flouts or unpleasantly upholds realism. These performances, either brimming with awkward emotion or elegantly mannered in their concealment thereof, resemble the lovechild of Von Sternberg and Bujalski.

  • The obviously improvised, repetitive dialogue sounds like it was recorded from an adjoining bathroom stall. Interesting, albeit obvious, choices for a drunk scene — until it becomes clear that no, this is how director Nathan Silver intends to shoot his entire movie... Carl Kranz, as a possibly autistic boy enamored of Natalia, offers his scenes some heart. But “Soft in the Head’’ is drab, ramshackle stuff — up in everyone’s face, and finding very little there.

  • From a dramatic standpoint, the movie can be unconvincing. Some half-muttered dialogue evokes John Cassavetes at his most indulgent; Ms. Etxeberría’s performance is both bravely off-putting and irritatingly mannered. From a formal standpoint, though, the movie impresses, maintaining a sense of anxiety through tight shots and a sound design that favors overlapping voices and constant clatter.

  • Nathan Silver’s raucous, disturbing new film is a shrewdly conceived yet emotionally unhinged blend of uproarious situations and devastating outcomes... Silver aims every scene at its points of maximal vulnerability, and the high-strung performances seem to shred the actors in real time. Mixing principle and violence, delight in a grotesque tall tale and horror at actual pain, he channels the tone of the Hollywood shock master Samuel Fuller.

  • Silver, who directed Exit Elena, thrives on the buzz and clash of domestic anxiety and stories of intrusion, observing collisions and connections among personalities with different rhythms and backgrounds... As others have observed, the dinner table (perhaps specifically the holiday dinner table) appears to be a key dramatic model for Silver, who brings forth a post-Cassavetean energy that remains to be fully harnessed.

  • Silver's latest finds the sweetness of its predecessor curdled, its warmth set ablaze, the result altogether possessed of a fiercer sensibility. Silver has gravitated away from Cassavetes, it seems, and toward the influence of another Hollywood maverick: Samuel Fuller, whose idiosyncratic riff on the hooker with the heart of gold, The Naked Kiss, Silver cites in Head's hair-pulling opening scene... The turbulence that follows is surprising, challenging, and never less than thrilling.

  • Natalia is the single female among the sexually deprived men, except for one dinner when her stricken friend, Hannah (Melanie J. Scheiner), deigns to join in at the table. The complexity of this grotesque vignette—Hannah's judgmental, middle-class gaze as she sits at the communal table, Natalia's passionate yet somewhat prurient interest in the men—is one example of Silver's psychological depth, where realism nearly implodes the more immediate exigencies of plot.

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