Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Not to be confused with that Bruce Willis ghost story, The Five Senses is more along the lines of Kieslowski Lite. The lives of five Canadians are connected by the sensations of touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight. They all reside in the same apartment complex, not unlike the lost souls wandering through The Decalogue. Each of the protagonists are faced with a glib moral crisis which must be resolved during the seemingly endless hour-and-forty-five-minute running time.
Ruth, a professional massage therapist (Gabrielle Rose, The Sweet Hereafter), uses the sensation of touch -- get it? -- to heal a wounded relationship with her daughter's former teacher (Molly Parker, who saw, smelled, tasted, and touched dead people in Kissed).
Sexy young socialite Rona (Mary-Louise Parker, Fried Green Tomatoes) is able to communicate with her hot Italian lover (Marco Leonardi), who can't speak a word of English, through the magic of delicious food and, of course, some really great sex. You can cross taste off of your mental checklist, folks.
On and on we go. There's the Crimes and Misdemeanors bit with the sensitive young eye doctor (Philippe Volter, The Double Life of Veronique) who is going deaf. Not blind. Deaf. Cue the orchestra. I can already hear fifty violins crying out to God. That covers both sight and sound, doesn't it?
Most ridiculous is the story of a happy-go-lucky bisexual house cleaner (Daniel MacIvor) who, undergoing a crisis of love, sets up a series of dates where he proceeds to smell his former romantic partners. Ooo-la-la!
Throw in a subplot about a missing child, and you've got some serious drama.
Writer-director Jeremy Podeswa approaches his story with solemnity which errs on the side of pretentiousness. The heavy-handed themes are so broad and predictable that The Five Senses induces laughs in all the wrong places.
The clean, austere shots are more revelatory in showing how disconnected and empty these lives are, but that Canadian sense of detachment is familiar from Atom Egoyan's stronger portraits of loneliness. Exotica comes immediately to mind, but the difference between Podeswa and Egoyan is that The Five Senses isn't about character or even emotion, but about ideas. That's a mistake when you're crafting a movie about human interaction -- no amount of egghead theory will make you care a fig about whether or not the housecleaner will find true love.
Mary-Louise Parker brings a clever sensuality to her role, whether flirting with Leonardi or grousing about her lousy lot to MacIvor. She surpasses the Generation-X "Am I after love or just sex?" dialogue by making her character decidedly feral and bitchy. You wouldn't want to date this vixen past a one-night stand, but she makes for a lively character in an otherwise ponderous piece of art house snobbery.
Four senses short.
Facts and Figures
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Friday 3rd December 1999
Distributed by: Fine Line Features
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Screenwriter: Jeremy Podeswa
Starring: Mary-Louise Parker as Rona, Molly Parker as Anna Miller, Gabrielle Rose as Ruth Seraph, Elize Francis Stolk as Amy Lee Miller, Nadia Litz as Rachel Seraph, Daniel MacIvor as Robert, Philippe Volter as Dr. Richard Jacob, Clinton Walker as Carl, Astrid Van Wieren as Richard's Patient, Brendan Fletcher as Rupert, Paul Bettis as Richard's Doctor, James Allodi as Justin, Gavin Crawford as Airport Clerk, Sandi Stahlbrand as TV Reporter #1, Amanda Soha as Sylvie