"So Pretty" is about the lives of four young queer people living in New York City and struggling to maintain their proto-utopian community from the outside world. This film, directed by Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli, is a retelling of the German novel "So Schön" by Ronald M. Schernikau. This film initially caught my attention with the LGBTQ+ themes, and it was expiring on Mubi the night that I found it. I was pleasantly surprised with how creative the film was, and how the story was told. The plot of the film is narrated by the main characters, which is shown visually and interwoven with the rest of the story. The acting felt so natural that I felt like I was watching the personal lives of these characters unfold before my eyes.
Part of what made this movie great was that it was a story with the characters just existing. I did find some cons to this as well, because some things are never explained. For instance, what kind of relationship were these people in with each other? I started off thinking it was two different couples living together but by the end of the film most of them had slept with each other. That being said, basically all other LGBTQ+ themed movies are centered around finding your identity or being shunned for it, and So Pretty does neither of these things. The sexualities and genders of all the characters are pre-existing, and even though the film centers around this aspect of their lives, it does not make them explain themselves. So in a way this was definitely a breath of fresh air for the LGBTQ+ community. On that same note, there was also a great amount of gender diversity featured as well. Rovinelli does not shy away from depicting feminine characters in ways that would be considered new for anyone unfamiliar with the trans and gender non-conforming communities.
Cinematically this film was quite beautiful. I am someone who loves seeing things shot on film, so I was thrilled to see an independent arthouse type movie shot on film in the year 2019. Speaking of it being shot on film, one of the most creative decisions I noticed was the choice to leave in one of the punch holes and film burns. Both of these things appear in the film next to each other, and because I instantly recognized them I was momentarily taken out of the story. These things are usually considered to be "junk" so I was surprised to see them used creatively as a transition between scenes. Something else that this film does quite a lot is panning and zooming. These types of shots are used throughout the film to reveal more of what is going on visually, and to explore the set surrounding the characters. It would make sense to me that these camera decisions were made to save film. It would have taken a lot more film to capture each part individually, especially if they would have had to do more than one take of it. Film isn't cheap, so I completely understand wanting to conserve it where you can. Regardless, this technique added a level of creativity that really made the film special and interesting to watch. I noted one mistake in the scene when Paul is running from the police, his hair is solid brown, when in the rest of the movie the top part of his hair is blonde/white. Most people probably won't notice this.
Paul hurting his leg. Erika getting arrested. The protest. The art instillation.
An investigation of leftist politics and femme identity in the context of an increasingly right wing world, So Pretty moves freely between fictional depictions and semi-documentary, adaptation and translation, looking towards the artistic and personal worlds its characters generate across time and culture as a space for new tensions and potentials.