Cinespect Selects: Alexandra Roxo and “Mary Marie”
Published on June 3rd, 2011 | by Carlos J. Segura0
Two sisters, Mary and Marie, return to their childhood home after their mother’s death to enjoy one last summer together there. The heat and isolation of the countryside blossom and blur the girls’ growing physical and emotional intimacy. When the local handy man, Peter, shows up, he threatens to reveal their secrets. Mary and Marie’s bond becomes dangerously competitive as the sexual tension builds … and the summer takes an unexpected turn.
Technically, the synopsis is accurate. But stop to think for a moment about what sort of film came to your mind after reading that synopsis. For this reviewer comparisons to “Ripe,” an indie film from the ‘90s about an unusually close sibling bond that goes wrong or “Heavenly Creatures” which, although not about siblings, is also about a relationship between two girls that turns fatal. But the strongest initial comparison for what was expected to come was Pawel Pawlikowski’s “My Summer of Love” in terms of plot and tone. However, unlike all of the aforementioned films Roxo’s film, which she also stars in with Alana Kearns-Green, who also co-wrote “Mary Marie,” the film is not a screw turner imbued with the same off-the-rails approach that “Ripe” or “Heavenly Creatures” drive you to. If it’s at all similar to any of the 3 films mentioned it’s perhaps “My Summer of Love” which, in comparison to the other two, fancies itself a psychosexual tragedy mostly in the form of undertones more than in anything that actually happens (and Roxo acknowledges “My Summer of Love” as an influence).
When in conversation with Roxo she claimed: “We looked at films that deal with young sexuality in really beautiful ways. “Stealing Beauty” is a great one and “The Dreamers” also has sort of a love triangle. These are very different films, obviously, but we just tried to think of films that had a similar dynamic. Some of Sofia Coppola’s films like “The Virgin Suicides” and “Lost in Translation.” “Elvira Madigan,” which is a very old, Danish film that has really beautiful scenes of two people outside in the summer.”
Coppola is not an unfair comparison, at least when it comes to the cinematography scheme which, necessarily, elevates this mirco-budget film to a significant degree through a combination of natural summer light, stylized lighting that doesn’t call too much attention to itself by planting obvious sources (bar lights, bedroom lighting, etc.) and a color scheme that is dominated by baby blues, light pinks, bright whites, lush greens and, of course, light and deep amber hues. The choice of the film’s brilliant and expert cinematographer, Magela Crosignani (“The Imperialists Are Still Alive”), is perhaps the best decision the filmmakers could have arrived at for it’s perhaps not an unfair guess if you look for it that not too much money was invested in the film for it has few actors, no effects, mostly outdoor locations, inexpensive props and so on.
As Roxo tells it for all involved it was a true labor of love. “There were a lot of donations of time and food and locations and cars and energy and that kind of thing. Cash was really small. A ton of people just really stepping up and helping us out in huge ways. My editor, Nida Ball, in L.A. has been amazing and she works full-time on T.V. and she helped edit on the weekends for a while. My color corrector here in New York, the same thing, she was just like, “Ok, I’m going to help you finish this.” Her name is Alina Pineda and she’s just incredible. All of these people just sort of came together and helped Alana and I. Sometimes I’m kind of astonished because there are some really good people out there and I hope I can repay them and help them on their projects, too. We didn’t want it to look like a handheld, indie, no-budget or micro-budget film. We wanted it to look like a professional film, that was one of our goals.”
Aside from being eye-catching and distinguishing the team involved as resourceful the cinematography is essential to Roxo’s vision. It is so because as made clear from Roxo’s words on her inspirations and the comparisons to the films it’s unlike the film rests less on a boiling plot and more on the strength of its atmospheric, visual choices. In everything from the precious clothing and accessories, to the emphasis on looks and repressed feelings over being wordy and beek-a-boo in its approach to sexuality, the character of the world these girls share together is almost innocent, hermetic and filled with a bit of strange naïveté (or is it willful and blissful ignorance?). Strange because while the girls are very young they don’t exactly seem like inexperienced, teenage waifs either. It’s a world of arrested beauty and adolescence, punctuated even more by the camera’s approach to nude bodies.
“Part of our job as female directors is to portray nudity as natural. In a way that feels more like real life…women’s bodies aren’t just breasts and nudity doesn’t always have to be sexual. Sometimes it’s just nudity…we’ve always wanted to treat women’s bodies and our own bodies in our work as something that we don’t want to hide or that we feel like we have to shy away from it…it doesn’t have to be such a big deal. It just is.”
Though, make no mistake. Roxo’s film at the end of it all still aims for impassioned situations, eroticism and narrative closure as made evident by events that happen toward the last third of the film. If anything the last third is a demonstration of the importance of timing as a filmmaker and patience as a viewer; sometimes you just have to trust a story will go somewhere even if it’s not right away. “Mary Marie” will be refreshing for viewers in its belief in that people can be attentive and for its depiction of these women, these people, as neither objects of a guilty, lustful camera or as deranged for their symbiotic relationship. If anything this is a film about the affirmation of the girls’ symbiosis. It is perhaps the most, or maybe the only, positive and dreamy film about extreme codependence that I’ve ever seen. And for this clarity of vision, resourcefulness and change of pace Alexandra Roxo, along with everyone else responsible for “Mary Marie,” is a local filmmaker that New Yorkers, and filmgoers in general, will find worth being attentive to.
For more information on the film and tickets to its showing at the Brooklyn Film Festival go to: