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Sex, Race, Celebrity, Exploitation 

Year: 2001 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Todd Solondz was always going to have trouble with his third film. Like Tarantino with Pulp Fiction and David Fincher with Se7en, he had produced a second film of such brilliance, of such influence and intelligence, that it would be next to impossible to top it. The film was Happiness, a dark-as-pitch comedy juggling the themes of murder, rape, paedophilia and loneliness with such aplomb and unflinching honesty that, despite its somewhat controversial subject matter, it was hailed by critics world-wide as one of the films of the year.

The eventual follow-up is Storytelling, a film that also has no qualms about dealing with the most taboo of subject matters, and yet differs considerably in tone and structure. The film is split into two sections, Fiction and Fact, which play on the ideas of what we consider to be real, and how the world and truth are presented to us.

In the first, and much shorter, section, a disillusioned young creative writer attempts to find solace with her intellectual college professor, and ends up writing a story based on her shocking experience with him. This segment includes themes of disability, racism and rape. In the second segment, a second rate documentary filmmaker undertakes a project to film the day-to-day life of an everyday slacker school kid called Scooby. This segment includes themes of underage homosexual sex, murder, the class system, and drug taking. Simply put, this is another Solondz film that is concerned with exposing the seamy underbelly of American picket-fence life, and one that does so with a great deal of wry humour.

The stories deal, as many such films do, more with situations and character interaction than a linear plot. That is not to say that the progression of the stories is not interesting (the conclusion to second segment is particularly disturbing), but the joy of the movie lies in its characterisations. John Goodman is a standout as the conservative, demanding father of slacker kid Scooby, though Selma Blair also turns in a superb performance in her less showy, more disturbing role.

Storytelling is a shocking film, but it is also a deeply funny one. Solondz's genius lies in his ability to bring a sense of humour to concepts that, in society, would normally be treated with revulsion. Controversial, undoubtedly, but as Hobbes the Tiger once said, if we didn't laugh, then we wouldn't be able to react to 90% of life.

Greg Taylor

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Screenings of this film:

2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)