Dreams, Washed Out

‘‘Dreams, Washed Out’’ is a strange and mystifying picture, that can be frustrating but ultimately rewarding to have a full grasp on.

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“‘Dreams, Washed Out’’ follows Henry (Rosario Minardi), Mei Li (Xiao Lan Jiao) and Aimee (Aimee Nazroo), three souls roaming through Catania, Sicily. “Dreams, Washed Out” is a dreamlike and melancholy entry from director/photographer Momò Yi Ching Lee, as her film explores how dreams, memory and time amalgamate into a continuous stream of consciousness. This highlights how our own personal desires and need to find love never turns out what we want it to be. The film shows a sense of longing that follows every character and how it consumes their own thoughts and decisions.

The film has a unique style and presentation that creates the dreamlike atmosphere. The way the film uses space and movement is precise and creates a sense of stillness and isolation to highlight the way the characters slip through time, and their navigation through these lonely spaces. Handheld shots that navigate the spaces bring an ethereal, ghostlike quality. The color palette in Henry’s studio has a saturated, nightly blue color that conveys that this place exists out of the world the characters inhabit. In contrast with scenes that seemingly represent the past, it is muted and far more naturalistic than the impressionistic world of the studio. The non-linear melding of time and memory is represented from a brief change of color to black and white.

Lee pushes herself further, displaying a diverse range of stylistic choices which add to the film’s exploration of its dreamy landscape, which lend a sense of immediacy and nostalgia; by using video camera footage capturing parts of Catania. These scenes echo a sense of recollection to places, such as footage of traffic in downtown Catania and a trip on a subway. There are moments of absurdity, such as the paintings moving and contorting of faces, as if they are alive and breathing relics of Henry’s own creation. It makes for a humorous visual which may potentially throw some viewers off guard.

The central performances range from quiet & nuanced to abrasive & strange. Jiao brings a captivating presence to her character; allowing herself to display a lot of vulnerability and bravery in more distressful scenes. She also reveals a sardonic wit to her. Through this we get insight into how aware she is, as an Asian woman, of her own sexuality and how men tend to sexualize her. Ying Lee presents an inverse of the male gaze, allowing the audience to know that she is also a part of the story. It acts as a sobering reminder of Henry’s selfishness and possessive grasp on the women in his film to fulfill his own needs.

Speaking of Henry, Minardi’s portrayal carries a weariness and jaded quality evoking his sense of ennui. Lee had stated that the role was written with him in mind, and you can certainly tell how easily he is able to take command of Henry’s more desperate qualities. It is in the moments where he feels rejuvenated and love stricken where we see his chemistry with Xiao Lan Jiao come through. He is a character driven by a want, which makes him at times frustrating and sympathetic.

The character of Aimee brings a strange quality which makes her disjointed and not clear on what she wants. At first, we see her lounging around Henry’s studio, compliant with what he wants from her, until we see another side that seems more restless. For example, there are moments where she needs to break free from the studio, or when she can see an elephant that only she can see. Perhaps longing for a childhood memory or unearthing something more traumatic? Her character leaves a lot of questions but fascinatingly pulls us into the world of the story.

As much as the film’s form does everything in its power to draw us into the its world and story, the sound design stands out as being quite flawed at certain points. There are moments where the soundscape, such as the city sounds and the film’s musical score, overwhelmed the film’s dialogue and atmosphere, to the point where pieces of conversations are undecipherable. It is unsure whether this was a deliberate choice made by the filmmakers or just sloppy sound mixing, but it really stands as a detriment.

‘‘Dreams, Washed Out’’ is a strange and mystifying picture, that can be frustrating but ultimately rewarding to have a full grasp on. It is an ambitious effort from Lee, combining her varied style, and precise camera work that fully displays her own unique cinematic voice. She is an interesting and abrasive talent whose work we should look out for. The film may tickle the curiosity and sensibilities of fans that appreciate the avant-garde; who seek an alternative to the drudge of the recent output of mainstream cinema, as well as those who are looking for a new female director to follow.

For more information on the film, click here to visit their website.

Written by Roy O’Connor

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