Posted: 10/21/2005


Common Senses


by Emily Withrow

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SplitPillow has breathed new life into the exquisite corpse - namely, by giving that fine, old surrealist body its five senses back.

The exquisite corpse: Mad-Libs for surrealists. Each poet would write only one line, fold the paper, and pass it along. The technique spoke to the surrealists¹ fancy for chance and accident, and demonstrated how the mind could link seemingly disconnected words.

³Common Senses² follows suit, throwing five chapters at its audience, each by a different director. Each had one week to film the next segment after receiving the previous chapter.

The result? Like their surrealist predecessors, the directors and actors didn¹t quite know what was coming.

The miracle? Most of the time, you can¹t tell. The filmmakers manage to weave together a cohesive narrative with likeable, developed characters.

The embarrassment of her family and friends, Erin (Holly Montgomery-Webb), is released from jail at the film¹s opening. This kleptomaniac soon meets former friend and current hustler Luis (Luis A. Perez) in the bowels of Chicago¹s underground, and together, they meander around the city, aimless.

Enter the child, that solidifying cinematic element that so often brings people together. Erin and Luis only play with him briefly, but soon the kid¹s disappearance becomes the cement to their awkward but comforting friendship.

The film¹s gritty quality underlines the fast and furious spirit in which it was sewn together and lends a real intimacy to the story.

One tends to forget the focus of the senses, until they¹re pointed out rather obviously by lollipop-sucking or fabric-rubbing.

Director Daniel J. Pico¹s chapter featuring hearing is by far the most effective of the five. Instead of falling into what could have been common expectations, he takes hearing to a new level - listening. He chooses to play with the absence of sound, which forces the audience to lean forward in their chairs, wanting to hear something along with the character.

Common Senses offers a gem of a gimmick - one that¹s not explicitly explained. Knowing the method behind the madness just enhances the movie-going experience, that¹s all. Ignore convention in the spirit of accident. It¹s unpretentious, un-self-conscious fun.

For more about this film, please visit SplitPillow’s website.

Emily Withrow is a film critic in Chicago.

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