SXSW REVIEW: “THE PLEASURE OF BEING ROBBED”

PleasureRobbed3.jpgThe pleasure of “The Pleasure of Being Robbed” is the joy of discovering a bag full of kittens (and watching them playfully flip through the air); the bliss of an unexpected overnight road trip with a friend; the warmth of a frolic with a polar bear. Josh Safdie’s film is filled with a carefree awkwardness, a lightness of touch with melancholy and humor, and a whole host of unexpected stolen delights. I am a big fan of Josh’s short film “The Back of Her Head,” which we screened at Rooftop in August of 2007, and his debut feature carries the emotions, ideas and spirit of his short films to a brilliant pinnacle.

The film follows a young lady as she drifts through life with the na├»ve charm of curious puppy, who takes whatever she wants, and with the detachment of an adorable kitten, who cares not a fig what you think of her. But Eleonore is neither greedy nor simple. She is constantly stealing, but does so exuding a joy in sharing objects, stories, lives. She steals with a hug, with a shared joke, with a helping hand. The real world does intrude on her beatific kleptomania, and one doesn’t get the sense that people do always understand and appreciate what she does, but as the description of the film says, the people from whom she steals “owe her their thanks.”

PleasureRobbed2.jpgCertainly we all owe a tremendous thanks to Safdie, actress Eleonore Hendricks, and the entire crew of the utterly dazzling Red Bucket Films team for creating this magical piece of cinema.

Amazingly, the film itself was somewhat stolen. The filmmakers had been commissioned to make a commercial, but instead used the money to make this gorgeous film, reminiscent of the best of the free-wheeling late-60s / early-70s American cinema.

When asked at the World Premiere Q & A why Josh was so interested in the idea of stealing, Safdie compared the feeling he got when he would steal as a kid to that of being in love, and being compelled to do irrational, illicit things for your lover. Might the creation of this character be seen as celebrating mental illness, one viewer asked. “Well, if mental illness is doing whatever you want all the time, then yes, I’ll celebrate that.”