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FDL Movie Night: Lotus Eaters

With her debut feature film Lotus Eaters, Alexandra McGuinness crystallizes the bright young things of London as this century begins its second decade: Less Than Zero with a touch of Araki’s turn of the last century’s Doom Generation, captured in glorious black and white evoking French New Wave and La Dolce Vita, Lotus Eaters follows a group of fashionable, wealthy and aimless twenty-somethings through the eyes of Alice, a former model with hopes of being actress.  In a career transition, worried about her dreamy, drug-addicted boyfriend, Alice herself is disintegrating.

You look thin and not in a good way

remarks one of her “friends” before singing the praises of the latest guru, Rufus. Alice’s boyfriend Charlie has just returned from rehab and no one, except Alice, seems to mind  that he’s slipped back into heroin use–nor that he crashes one of his pal’s cars on the way to a party. The other girls are too absorbed in finding cheap thrills–shoplifting from chic boutiques, dancing, drinking, or in one hilariously sad scene, splashing in a vodka bath–to really care.

I got it to match your eyes

says one girl handing another a birthday present.

It’s blue…my eyes are brown

is the response. While Alice mourns over Charlie’s heroin use and tries to restart her career as a model then as an actress, she spurns the attentions of the far more stable Felix, who further involves himself with Suzie, a former ballerina, who dresses her pet lemur in a rhinestone collar and slices Felix’s clothes to shreds in a jealous rage.

And in the midst of this is Orna, an older woman, the only character with an actual career–she’s a fashion designer–who manipulates the constantly shifting romantic entanglements and Alice’s career hopes, then drags Felix and two of his friends to Nice, while Alice stumbles through Glastonbury (the film features great live music performances as well as a strong soundtrack). As the drama increases, so does the fashion: A hat made of branches, a puffy white feather dress are standouts.

The script captured a certain ennui, a shallowness that was both funny and horrifying. (And horrifyingly accurate. I swear I have heard things like the characters say come out of the mouths of people I know, which means I probably need to go to different parties!)

The climax of the film occurs at the end a disorienting house party where tragedy hovers like an avenging angel, lurking in the shadows during a game of charades. Orna sets in motion a chaotic play that destroys the lives of all who come in contact with her, bringing an end to their brief stay in the land of the lotus eaters. While the film’s title comes from The Odyssey, it’s Tennyson’s retelling that came to my mind:

A land where all things always seem’d the same!
And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

There comes a time for people to leave behind self-absorption, but most will not be thrust out of the land of the lotus eaters by such drama, or in such beautiful clothes. It’s heartening to know that Alexandra McGuinness feels that period of superficiality has ended because of shifts in world events, telling Vanity Fair:

I think it’s kind of going away, with all what’s happened recently.

Let’s hope she is right, but no doubt there will be new successive crops of  youth

Like a dreamy Lotos-eater, a delirious Lotos-eater!
… will eat the Lotos, sweet
As the yellow honeycomb

until shaken from their stupor by necessity, if at all.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.

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