Twisted family dynamics are at the center of the new offerings at Ogden’s Art House Cinema 502.
From the father/son filmmaking team of Claude and Nathan Miller comes I’m Glad My Mother is Alive, a fact-based psychological drama that packs a creepy punch—right up until the final 15 minutes. Thomas (Vincent Rottiers) is a 20-year-old adoptee who remembers the mother, Julie (Sophie Cattani), from whom he was taken away as a child. When he tracks her down, he tries to re-establish a connection, but doesn’t necessarily like what he finds. The two central performances are terrific, with the Millers crafting a wonderfully uncomfortable dynamic between Thomas and Julie that’s just this side of sexual. It’s fascinating as long as it’s about Thomas’s attempts to manufacture an alternate reality in which Julie lives up to his idealized memories instead of being the muddled mess of a human being she is. And then the plot turns into true-crime, with a resolution that may stick to the facts but offers nothing, unfortunately, that’s satisfying as a narrative.
More potent—and even more disturbing—is Anders Morgenthaler’s 2006 Danish anime-style animated psychodrama Princess (pictured). August (voice of Thure Lindhardt), an ex-priest, takes in Mia, the 5-year-old daughter of his dead sister, and attempts to protect Mia from her mother’s legacy as a porn star. Morganthaler incorporates live-action video footage to surprisingly powerful effect, and conveys the damaging life Mia has lived through moments that are alternately horrifying and comical, like a playground game of pretend in which Mia takes a societally inappropriate role. The narrative never bothers to explain why an ex-priest has badass ninja skills that allow him to become an avenging angel, but behind all the graphic brutality is a story of guilt and shame that works beyond the level of visceral visual filmmaking.