Home Video Hovel: In Montauk, by Chase Beck
A good film does not live and die by its twists, surprises and resolutions. That having been said, it’s hard to review any film without discussing, and giving away, salient plot points in the film. Kim Cummings’ In Montauk is no exception in this regard. Suffice it to say that the main character, Julie Wagner (Nina Kaczorowski), is faced with more than one difficult decision and by the end of the film, it’s not terribly certain whether the path she chose was the correct one for any of the characters involved.
Upon learning that she is pregnant with her husband’s child, Julie has a bit of a meltdown, fleeing her life in Queens, New York, and retreating to her condominium in Montauk. Montauk, New York is a popular tourist retreat in the Summer but Julie finds herself there in December. Julie is looking for inspiration and perhaps a little solitude while she tries to figure-out whether to keep her child.
To her credit, when he learns about Julie’s difficult choice, her husband (George Katt) is not much help. Not that she makes it very easy for him. She is a photographer, and the pictures she’s taking are unimpressive. Enter her tall, athletic, new neighbor Christian Nygaard (Lukas Hassel) with his exotic but unplaceable European accent. Christian has the body of an Olympic athlete and a face that looks as if it was carved from a solid chunk of perfectly-tanned marble (certainly a step-up from Julie’s short-statured, balding husband). Neighbor Nygaard is a talented composer and he is looking for a little solitude while he works out new melodies.
This is perhaps what I liked best about In Montauk. A film about a photographer and a composer had better look and sound amazing. It met my expectations in these two areas. The cinematography was top-notch, if a little indulgent in art house-style sequences. Additionally, the soundtrack of the film transitions from Christian’s tentative fumblings on a portable synthesizer to fully-realized, hauntingly melodic compositions.
It should be no surprise, to anyone associated with modern films as a storytelling medium, that Julie and Christian conflict immediately but soon they are spending every day together as Christian lugs around Julie’s heavy camera equipment. Later Christian stands in as a model in many of her photographs. I’m pretty sure that you can see where this is going.
I like to think that I’m mature enough to understand that not every tale needs a happy ending. In many instances, unhappy endings better portray the artist’s message and vision as well as the established tone of a film. For In Montauk, rather than choosing between a happy or sad ending, or perhaps a bittersweet mixture of the two, the filmmakers decided not to decide and just ended the film. To their credit, coming in at a spare 68 minutes, In Montauk never felt boring or overly-long. I’m unsure whether the film was planned to always be shorter than a feature film, or an ending was filmed, found to be unsatisfactory, and left it on the cutting-room floor. As for my own conclusion to this review, I won’t leave the reader guessing on my impression of the film. It was better than I expected and kept me watching despite not being a genre that I generally enjoy.