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The Independent Critic

Anna Fikhman, Ellie Aaron, Trine Boode-Peterson, Zelda Knapp, Jillene Anzanetta, Emelia Benoit-Lavelle, Marguerite Einhorn, Maya Azbel, Kristina Karyakina, Danielle Lenore, Sarah Teed, Tonianne Druckman, Dy Maximillian, Merrin Lazyan, Brooke Ivy-Prussin, Maya Gilbert and Cody Clark
Cody Clarke
73 Mins.

 "Rehearsals" an Experiment That Doesn't Quite Work 
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Having been a fan of Cody Clarke's first film, Shredder, I found myself more than a bit excited when he e-mailed me with an online screener for his latest film, an experimental documentary called Rehearsals. Rehearsals involves Clarke filming "fly-on-the-wall" footage of the lives of sixteen women and melding it all together into a college that tells the story of a "day in the life" of an aspiring actress living alone in New York City.

While I found myself intrigued by the concept and ready for another experimental adventure with the low-key yet imaginative Clarke, I must confess that even for an ultra-low budgeted indie film I found Rehearsals to be a disappointingly self-aware film that borders on taking an exploitative approach towards the very subjects it seeks to on some level understand.

If this is truly representative of "a day in the life" of an aspiring actress, then it's easy to understand why there are so many unemployed actresses. What Clarke has, for the most part, captured is a world that is mundane, vain and almost absurdly plain. To his credit, Clarke doesn't dramatize the experience but neither does he capture anything beyond the very surface, at least one would hope, for a single female trying to be an actress in New York City.

While one could potentially accept the seemingly mundane existence captured in Rehearsals, it was more Clarke's overt sexualization of these young women that was most bothersome. While I'm far from a prude, and these are some mightly beautiful women, Clarke's camera on numerous occasions focuses either on ass shots or breasts shots or simply takes an angle that started to make me wonder if I might be watching the first soft-core documentary.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. In an ordinary film, such an approach would be understandable and not particularly questionable. For a documentary, however, it feels like Clarke himself is subjecting these young women to the same kind of treatment they likely face on a regular basis. This could have been used as a springboard towards bigger and better conversations, but with Clarke's approach resembling more of a photographic essay than an in-depth documentary it becomes disappointing and ineffective.

While it may sound as if I hated the entire film, but this is not true. I admire the simplicity of Clarke's approach and while I became troubled with some of his shot selection his overall camera work is quite impressive. When you consider that Clarke shot this film on a mere $100, the finished product is quite impressive and should have no difficulty finding a home on the underground and ultra-indie film fest circuit.

It's simply that I believe that Clarke was on to something here. The finished product serves more to admire these young women than to understand and really represent them. They deserved better and, my gut is telling me, that Clarke's vision was higher than what's currently being served up. As the film was only recently finished, one can only hope that through the course of the film's festival run Clarke will be able to tweak it into a more satisfying and less exploitative film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic