Atopia // 2006 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // March 11th, 2008
A woman, a man, a myth.
When Fenton (Jesse Aaron Dwyre) first sees Teresa (Vanessa Bauche, Amores Perros), she is looking over the strawberries at the market where he works. There is a sadness about her that touches him, and when he speaks to her, she tells him that she is in Montreal to find her brother, Angel. It seems he came to the city on business from their home in Mexico some months ago and has not been heard from since. His business involved trying to get a payment from the produce company that sells strawberries to the market.
Fenton offers to help Teresa. He's the adventurous type, something of a free spirit -- the market is only one of many part-time jobs he seems to have -- and he's attracted to her. Together, they set out in search of Angel, putting together clues and tracing his steps throughout Montreal.
But the more Fenton learns, the less he seems to know -- about Angel and about Teresa.
Imitation is an intriguing, if not wholly successful, indie. Well acted and wonderfully shot, Imitation is a nicely crafted series of moments; unfortunately, the film never quite comes together.
Fenton and Teresa begin their search at the produce company, and Fenton finds out a few things that immediately throw the mission off-kilter. Shortly thereafter, he and Teresa have an argument, and she takes off with his car. Armed only with a battered photo of Angel, Fenton decides to continue investigating on his own. We see Teresa and Fenton in parallel -- she, living with some other Mexican women, hoping to start a seamstress business; he, following leads that take him into Montreal's Spanish-speaking community (Fenton doesn't speak Spanish).
Fenton's encounters are amusing and interesting, but there's a sense that director Federico Hidalgo meant for them to be something more, something that would add to the mystique of the Angel character. Everyone seems to have met him, to have an anecdote of some sort, as though Angel is a kind of displaced Charles Foster Kane. The editor of a Spanish-language newspaper, where Angel applied for a job as advice columnist, even suggests that the man is a mad genius. The film creates a quirky but satisfying tension as we wait to find out the truth about Angel.
Since Angel is given an almost mythic build-up, the film needs a powerful or at least revelatory conclusion. Unfortunately, the final act is seriously lacking and leaves us wondering what all the fuss was about.
Among the extras is an "alternate opening scene." In my experience, "alternate" scenes are either the same scene that's in the film with a minor change or two, or they are complete throwaways. In this case, the alternate opening would have changed the entire film. The perspective would have been Teresa's, not Fenton's, and much of the "mystery" would not exist. It's interesting to consider what the film might have been had it opened with this scene, and clearly it's something that Hidalgo pursued seriously enough that the scene was shot, edited, and ready to go (excerpts from it appear in the trailer). This also might explain why the film feels, somehow, incomplete, why the whole thing just peters out.
Up to the last act, it's a nice ride. Teresa and Fenton are engaging characters, Montreal looks great, and the dialogue is clever and unpretentious.
The disc offers a good visual presentation, although the stereo audio track is a bit thin. In addition to the deleted scene, we get a segment from Hidalgo's earlier film, A Silent Love, which also starred Vanessa Bauche, this time as a Mexican "Internet bride" meeting, for the first time, the man with whom she'd been corresponding in anticipation of marriage. This also looks like a quirky and interesting film, and the excerpt made me interested in seeing it.
Had Hidalgo made Imitation as a straight-up drama instead of an ersatz noir, this would be an easy recommendation. Unfortunately, the whole "mystery" angle just adds an unnecessary layer to what should have been a quirky character study.
Guilty of promising more than it delivers.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Alternate Opening Scene
* Excerpt from A Silent Love
* Theatrical Trailer
* Official Site