By José Sarmiento-Hinojosa
Since the premiere of Exit Elena, in 2012, indie filmmaker Nathan Silver has established himself as one of the most original voices in the American independent film circuit. Exceptional films like Soft in the Head or Stinking Heaven, already gave an excellent testimony for the author’s predilection for heavy improvisation and dialogue, as well as his casting abilities (usually with a big ensemble of actors, including talented non actors like his mother Cindy Silver). Silver’s method relies heavily on spontaneity, and a particular use of the camera, which sometimes takes a documentary quality or a low-res “film diary” condition, every time serving the story in the best of ways.
Is no surprise than the first experience of Silver abroad would’ve had the support of names like Damien Bonnard (who we had previously seen in the fantastic Staying Vertical, by French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie , and stars also in F.J. Ossang’s latest 9 Doigts). Casting has always been one of the key elements in the success of Nathan’s films, and this is in no way an exception: Bonnard is outstanding in his role of a low-life, lover boy Jérôme, a bartender who eventually meets an obsessive Gina (also magnificent Lindsay Burdge), a fly hostess who arrives in Paris, searching for love and adventure. The duo of an insecure, know-no-boundaries Burdge, and a deceptive, careless Jérôme, is a tale of wild love, well placed in the romantic Paris (superb cinematography by Sean Williams), a story always on the edge, but never quite falling in the cliché of obsessive love drama/comedies.
If maybe more contrived and less risky than his previous affairs, Thirst Street is Silver appropriate salute to amour-fou. Burdge is never out of control, or portrayed like a neurotic women; her attitude of naivete and obliviousness is exemplary awkward but also shows an unrestricted frailty (something that reminds us of characters like Eva Löbau in Maren Ade’s The Forest for the Trees). Silver never uses one-dimensional characters and here is no exception: even Bonnard, at his most deceptive, is just an aimless man, discouraged and adrift. The construction of this narrative, along the use of a particular atmospheric use of photography and camera, elevates this tragic comedy to a realm of the almost oneiric, something like a fever dream, or a wild fantasy.
Nathan Silver seems to have found his voice long ago, and now he’s just refining his method. This “director of orchestra” has always worked as his best with a good, familiar ensemble, and this is another particularly good example of that.
Director: Nathan Silver
Screenwriter: Nathan Silver, C. Mason Wells
Cinematographer: Sean Williams
Editor: Hugo Lemant, John Magary
Producer: Ruben Amar, Louise Bellicaud, Joshua Blum, Claire Charles-Gervais, Matthew Ellison, Josh Mandel, Katie Stern, C. Mason Wells
Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Damien Bonnard, Esther Garrel, Lola Bessis, Jacques Nolot, Françoise Lebrun, with the voice of Anjelica Huston