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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Lost Words' a Video Matinee on Love

March 19, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Shot on videotape in a simulated verite style, the art-house matinee feature "The Lost Words" is about "modern love and how we 'have to say the words,' even if we don't quite know what they are" (according to the literature).

The trouble is, these characters are never at a loss for words. Inarticulateness seems to be the least of their problems: As if to fulfill your worst stereotypes about New York neurotics, everyone here whines incessantly. As an Angeleno, it makes you feel suddenly not so self-involved after all.

The misguided conceit is that Charles (Michael Kaniecki)--an unemployed video editor and folk singer-songwriter with a really terrible haircut--has hired a buddy to shoot his daily life on a camcorder in the hopes that it will revitalize him and save his failing relationship with Marcie (Zelda Gergel). We're not supposed to worry about why he thinks this might work, or how all the cross-cutting close-ups in real time are achieved with a single camera.

Each scene is presented as a separate vignette with its own title card, circumventing any need for continuity. Some of the actors in smaller roles, playing sexist-pig men or ditsy-artist women, fare fine doing improv riffing. Charles, though, is so ineffectual--like Woody Allen on a 'lude bender, with about 85 IQ points lopped off for bad behavior--that he's incapable of arousing our sympathy, and a viewer might actually spend most of the movie supposing it's an ironic indictment of him. Or that the video-making context is meant to be a spoof of the masturbatory nature of self-documentation, a la Albert Brooks' "Real Life."

Wrong, pastrami-breath. If they ever hold an "I Hate New York" film festival here, "The Lost Words" might suffice as a midnight feature.

'The Lost Words'

Michael Kaniecki: Charles

Bob McGrath: Sid

Zelda Gergel: Marcie

A Film Crash presentation of a Scopix production, released by Headliner. Director Scott Saunders. Producers Saunders, Katrina Charmatz, Vanessa Baran. Screenplay by Dan Koeppel, Saunders, Kaniecki. Cinematographers Mark Kroll, Saunders. Music Kaniecki, Chris Burke. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

MPAA rating: Unrated. Times guidelines: It contains a little foul language, mature themes.

* Playing Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. through April 3 at the Laemmle Sunset 5, Sunset Boulevard at Crescent Heights, West Hollywood, (213) 848-3500.

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