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The Five Senses (1999)

by on 2013/07/09

Five Senses (1999)“Not everyone’s meant to be with someone.”

* * *

Pascale Bussieres, Mary-Louise Parker, Molly Parker, Gabrielle Rose, and Tracy Wright, solid performers all.

Then there were the new discoveries I enjoyed equally well, Nadia Litz and Daniel MacIvor in particular.

How could The Five Senses miss?

And yet it does. Subverting great expectations in the opposite manner to Dance Me Outside, my disappointment tempts me to fail it outright.

It reminded me of another sobering exercise, The Event, suffused with politics I admired, but insufficient synergy. It aspires to unify several stories with the conceit of the five senses – hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch – then ultimately fails to evoke much feeling as a whole.

It LOOKS good and SOUNDS good, but doesn’t FEEL right! I guess it isn’t to my TASTE! Something-something SMELL!

A bisexual house-cleaner searches for the scent of love. A French optometrist seeks out specific sounds as he gradually goes deaf. A massage therapist can’t connect with her struggling teenager. An English teacher awaits the return of her three-year old gone missing. A cake decorator tries to adjust to life with her Italian boyfriend.

Amid all these strands of angst-wracked longing, I really only perked up once, and that was at Wright’s appearance in a near-cameo.

I suppose my issues come down to this: I preferred the actors to their roles. I didn’t like the characters or find them in any way compelling, at least not enough to care about what eventually happened to them.

However my mind might acknowledge the universality of themes like sensation and connection, their context and presentation had me cringing throughout at what felt like First World problems. The terms “Bourgeois”, “pretentious”, and “soap opera” appear time and again in my notes. I felt only manipulated, overwhelmed by negativity. Ignorance, misunderstanding, dread, frustration, and resentment . . . a marathon of intercut Three’s Companys, as imagined by a nihilist.

There’s precious little levity, so I couldn’t judge it by fun, and too much left unknown to find redemption. I desperately avoided looking at the remaining time, working to appreciate the construction. Then something would happen, so deliberate and on-the-nose, I’d roll my eyes and lose any sense of respect.

For all that’s going on in The Five Senses, too little was interesting. It’s not without its moments but, by and large, it’s uninvolving, studied and theoretical, like the product of an art-film course. It winds up being good, although it’s clearly trying to be great. Visibly, forcefully, palpably trying, for better and for worse.

* * *

Rated R

106 minutes

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