Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost and Delirious (Léa Pool, 2001)

Stuffy academia surrounded by the lush greenery of nature has to be a metaphor for something. However, since I have no idea what that metaphor might be, I'll try to focus on what I do best: Describe, in intricate detail, the sensuous softness that are Mischa Barton's adolescent knees. Oh, to be kneed squarely in the groin by Mischa Barton in the summertime, what alabaster bliss that would bring. One minute you're enjoying a frozen treat by the ferris wheel, and then all of a sudden, blamo! Her exquisitely shaped knee is plowing its way across the sensitive peaks and valleys of your vast genital infrastructure with the ferocity of an out of control jackhammer. (Okay, can I stop you there for a second? Yeah, hi, while I'm digging all this knee to the crotch talk, I was wondering when you're going to get to the film at hand?) Whatever. Not to generalize, but when it comes to celebrating the female form on-screen, I find most attempts by male directors to be crass and uncouth. On the other hand, of course, continuing not to generalize, female directors, whether its intentional or not, seem to understand allure of the womanly form much better than their male counterparts.

This difference in temperament is blatantly on display in Lost and Delirious, a coming-of-age tale about forbidden love at an all girls boarding school located just outside Toronto, Ontario. (While the Blue Jays baseball team is mentioned in one scene, the movie was actually filmed on the campus of Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Québec). In the hands of a man, the film would have probably been overly sleazy and a tad coarse (not that there's anything wrong with that). But under the watchful eye of Léa Pool (Mouvements du désir), working from a script loosely based on the novel The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan, the film literally soars.

Deftly mixing pompous, high minded (a.k.a. gobbledygook) elements with plenty of shots of teenage girls frolicking in their burgundy uniforms (the paleness of their underage legs manage to entice and blind simultaneously), the film is an intense, and sometimes frightening, examination of what kind power love can have when it afflicts the mind of an impish juvenile delinquent. Of course, I don't mean to imply that love is some kind of disease. On the contrary, love is a crestless wave that envelopes the fullness of ones spirit with a fiery glow of pure happiness. But when that radiated beam isn't being transmitted from both parties, that's when the crazy can start to set in.

Following Mary "Mouse" Bedford (Mischa Barton) as she tries to fit in at a swanky boarding school, all the film's action is seen from her naive perspective. A timid girl (hence the petite nickname), Mouse is immediately sucked into the relationship between her roommate's Paulie (Piper Perabo) and Tori (Jessica Paré). In fact, she is so sucked in, that their late night moans of pleasure end up becoming a part of her dreams. Unfortunately, their relationship is still viewed as taboo at their aristocratic learning facility, and the less cocksure Tori ends the romantic aspect of their relationship in fear of upsetting the societal turnip wagon.

Embroiled in the tempestuous aftermath of the girls split, Mouse tries her best to sooth the wounded heart of the rambunctious Paulie– you know, by being there for her. But the lovesick Paulie has no intention of giving up so easily. Convinced that Tori's public declaration that she loves heterosexual male cock is sheer dupery, Paulie pulls out the stops to win back the heart of the skittish Tori. And while fencing, quietly sobbing to the music of Ani DiFranco, crazed outbursts, and nursing an injured bird of prey back to health aren't the most established techniques when it comes to re-wooing your beloved, they're the best she's got.

Actually, now that I think about, you can't go wrong with "crazed outbursts." I highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to reconnect with an indecisive loved one.

Anyway, the cinematic equivalent of a clenched fist being thrust in the air to signify the epic grandeur that is love, Lost and Delirious works on a number of different levels. However, since I would really like to shift the focus of my attention to the fantastic Mischa Barton, I'll just pick one level. And that would be the serious nature in which Léa Pool handles the material. Oh, sure, there are a couple of unintentional giggles here and there. But the weightiness of the script and performances by the actors are so precise, that the film's tone is never wobbly.

While Graham Greene brings his usual deadpan brilliance to the girl-centric undertaking as a campus gardener, and Jessica Paré is sexy as hell (though, I should say, her slow-motion breakdown was quite moving from an acting point-of-view), it's, for the most part, the Piper Perabo show. (Tonight on The Piper Perabo Show, Piper gently caresses Mindy Kaling's inner thighs with a peacock feather, an in-depth interview with author Donna Tartt, and the abstract electro industrial music of New Jersey's Smersh.)

In the hands of a less confident actress, a line like, "Don't ever touch a raptor" would definitely come across as comical (the added ruffled bird feather sound effect wouldn't have helped). Yet, Piper brought just the right amount of fearlessness to the role of the headstrong Paulie, that we end up believing that she is genuine pain. Seriously, the amount of gusto she brought to the proverbial table was astronomical. It's the kind of character you can't do half-assed, and Miss Perabo, utilizing the entirety of Perabovian arsenal, dives in at full force.

You'll notice I said, "for the most part," when referring to the film as "the Piper Perabo show." Well, that's because the gorgeous Mischa Barton is in the movie as well. And when you share the screen with Mischa Barton, you can never completely overwhelm the proceedings. First of all, just having her stand there takes down your appeal a couple of notches. And when she speaks–you know, actual dialogue, you can pretty much kiss your charisma goodbye, because you're about to get severely schooled in the art of quiet translucency.

Possessing the mannerisms of a mouse, which is crucial when playing character named Mouse, Mischa Barton gives a beautifully restrained performance that worked extremely well alongside the more boisterous Piper. On top of that, her character loved to garden. Also crucial was her ability to appear as if she was thinking actual thoughts, because at one point Graham Greene tells her that she looks like a thinker. And you know what? At that moment, Mischa did seem like she was processing thoughts with her brain.

No foolin', her mousy mannerisms and thoughtful disposition went a long way in shaping the flugbahn of her refined performance.

When I was a little boy fighting to survive in the wilds of suburban Toronto, I recall the day in kindergarten when we were all asked to stand up and tell the class what we want to be when we grow up. At first I was like, "Do you mind? I'm trying to take a nap over here!" But then I said, "Uh, yeah, I wanna be a fireman," or some stupid shit like that. In hindsight, I wish I had said, "When I grow up, I wanna be a teenage Mischa Barton." Now, I realize that Mischa did not exist at the time, but that does not change the fact that being a teenage Mischa Barton would be fucking awesome.



  1. Graham Greene? No, wait, that Graham Greene. (He's Oneidan, not too far removed from my Cayugan. Woo hoo Indian pride!)

    Thanks for the link to Bishop's University. I've always been interested in Canadian higher education. I think I may have mentioned once that I almost spent a semester at Brock for their Canadian studies program. (Seriously. What's funny is I wound up taking a Canadian studies class in Germany.)

    Mischa Barton is English?

    A fireman? LOL. Yeah, I think I said something like "stewardess."

  2. I just remembered there's a town in Ontario called Cayuga.

    Brock is named after a highly regarded War of 1812 general.

    Damn, I full of trivia today.

    Canadian studies class?!? Well, that's explain your extensive knowledge of Canadian culture.

    I bet there was a course called "Gowan 101"

    Yeah, she apparently moved to New York when she was six.

    Wait, they actually asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? 'Cause I was just joking around (I've never been interested in putting out fires). Man, I feel gypped. ;)

  3. Dude, speaking of Canadiana, we have a new cable channel that launched here in the states...and there are alot of shows from the Canadian Food Network. Woo hoo! I hope they show that Michael Smith guy. He's so...Canadian. You know what I mean, right? He doesn't even need to open his mouth and say "aboot."

    Just look at him!

    I was trying to tell the other half about Gowan the other day. I was surprised to hear that he knew about Honeymoon Suite. I didn't know that "Feel It Again" was a Top 40 hit here in the US. I just remember them from Canadian radio.

    Do you know what was funny about that Canadian Studies course I took in Germany? It was on Francophone Canada, taught by this nice Québécoise. I did my term paper on Cajun culture and had a very hard time finding Tabasco sauce in the local supermarkets. That's where I learned how much the Québécois hate Mordecai Richler.

    My father saved the paper on which I wrote my future plans as a waitress in the sky.

  4. I watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network every now and then.

    "He doesn't even need to open his mouth and say 'aboot.'"

    Really? This I gotta see. :D

    Yikes! He kinda reminds me of Patrick Roy (sticking with the Québécois theme).

    Honeymoon Suite had one of their songs featured in the movie One Crazy Summer.

    I used to watch Daniel Richler (Mordecai's son) on The New Music, a pre-Much Music show that began in the late 70s.

    A waitress in the sky, eh? I've never heard them described that way before.

    Oh, and why wasn't Det. Frank Pembleton on EW's list of 100 Greatest Characters of the last 20 years?

  5. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives? Cool! If you ever see the episode from Columbia, I'm not on camera, but I was in the restaurant (Pawleys Front Porch) on the day they filmed.

    "Waitress in the Sky" = Replacements song

    Yeah, that EW list kind of sucked, especially the top twenty.

  6. My fave joint I've seen them cover so far was a Drive-in located in North Carolina called... damn, I forget the name. Anyway, I'll keep an eye for the Pawleys Front Porch segment.

    I'm kinda proud that I didn't know that "Waitress in the Sky" was a Replacements song. I mean, they're no Laibach. ;)

    Speaking of music, I happened to catch a reference to Eddie and the Cruisers on The Venture Bros. the other day.

    *checks the top twenty*

    Woah! There are definitely some Kamir Amir red flags in that top twenty. :D

    WTF? Rachel from Friends? All the friends are lame, but she's the lamest.

    Cher from Clueless at #34! Can I get a hell yeah?

  7. Having only seen Piper Perabo previously in COYOTE UGLY, I was pleasantly surprised at how awesome she was in LOST AND DELIRIOUS. She really took it to another level and delivered a truly inspired performance. It's a shame that she really hasn't found another film or role of this caliber since... altho, THE CAVE is a guilty pleasure.

  8. My favorite inclusion on the list might be Wikus van de Merwe from District 9. Sharlto Copley 90-something.

    Here's the YouTube of that episode of DDD:

    You can't see me, but I'm sitting at the bar in the outside dining area that's shown in the second half of the clip.

    Their burgers are really good, and the place is a couple of blocks from an apartment where I once lived.

    Guy Fieri must really like the Carolinas and Buffalo! Jeez, I've lost count of how many Buffalo restaurants he's visited.

  9. J.D.: I had that exact same reaction when it came to Piper Perabo: Saw her in Coyote Ugly, and like most normal people, thought it was awful (including Piper). But my opinion did a complete 180 when I saw her in this flick.

    The Cave, eh? Hmmm, I keep an eye out for it.

  10. Karim Amir: I haven't watched the whole thing yet, but I have to say, those alien weapons in District 9 are pretty sweet.

    Just remembered, the drive-in in North Carolina is called BAR-B-Q-KING.

    Oh yeah, I forgot that there are plenty of DDD clips on YouTube.

    Pawleys Front Porch

    Yikes! What's with the dagger? :D

    Mmmm, pineapple burger. Love them fixings.

    Really? I haven't seen any Buffalo joints covered on Triple D. But then again, I only watch the show sporadically.