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PostPosted: Thu Dec 25, 2014 5:22 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:21 am
Big fan of the 1997 indy & somewhat obscure film, The Myth of Fingerprints. Very well-done character study about a somewhat estranged son (Noah Wylie) who goes back home to spend a strained Thanksgiving weekend with his family. Also starring Roy Scheider (who IMHO elevated any film he was in by his inclusion), Blythe Danner, Julianne Moore, etc.

I thought it had a great, poignant story & I always liked watching it around the holidays.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is in the very beginning, when the father (Scheider) looks at old home movies of his children when they were young; you get the impression he's trying to relive the past & remember better days...

An element I found quite relatable for me re: the film was the theme of someone going back home for a visit - after a long absence. Years ago (after I permanently moved away from the area where I grew up, for my job), I would annually go home to visit around the holidays. Though thankfully my relationship with my family is much better than the relationship(s) in the film, I could still relate to the idea of coming back to town & visiting family & old friends...and realizing that you don't have much in common with them anymore - other than your past experiences....

Haven't seen the DVD for a couple of years, and these days it's OOP & quite expensive. So, IMHO we're long overdue for a Blu release...I definitely think it's deserving of the Criterion label.

Anyone else a fan of this film?


Last edited by AnamorphicWidescreen on Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:36 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 3:04 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2005 5:40 pm
Location: where the simulacrum is true
The Myth of Fingerprints remains a perennial favorite of mine and deserves more treatment than it has received. Despite its Thanksgiving setting I wouldn't necessarily say it's recommended holiday viewing (though I just watched it again this year at that time); it's tremendously sad and melancholic but is leavened somewhat by its delicately applied layer of well considered humor. Certainly I prefer this film to Jodie Foster's similarly themed Home for the Holidays in which the humor and pathos co-exist simultaneously but do not helpfully inform one another; rather the humor just bulwarks the characters' supposedly exposed vulnerabilities, reinforces their already snide superiority.

Myth does not do that. Its actual narrative is disarmingly simple and its scenes of humor and pathos more or less alternate, though elements of each seep through the cracks of the other as the characters become more well defined to us. What is recounted here is yet another of those family dramas in which old wounds are forced to be resurrected around the collective holiday dining table. Confrontation and conflict of one sort or another is standard and in terms of overall familiarity this must have seemed like nothing new to critics and audiences; I can imagine no other explanation for the film's otherwise unconscionable neglect.

For Myth is actually deceptively radical in its contents and approach. Part of my own affection for it has to do with the fact that Freundlich displays such unassuming confidence in this, his debut feature. Voices are rarely raised (Roy Scheider's performance is virtually mute) and much is allowed to remain just out of range and unsaid; perhaps because what lies behind this family's dysfunction is what lies behind most, fundamentals of personality so deeply embedded and inextricably part of each individual's identity as to not provide the consoling prospect of any easy remedy. It is simply the reality one must live with somehow. Myth has great understanding of that and sympathy for it. Everything is small, in miniature even, and nothing is forced or overstated. Julianne Moore's character of Mia shares her father's social antipathy but is more vocal about it. She is the one character allowed subdued rages that occasionally boil over; but all is so deftly controlled here that there is never a false moment or misjudged emotion. Much of her story zeroes in on the displacement of feeling and inability to be vulnerable that she and Scheider both represent at different stages.

But it's really in the relationship between Noah Wyle's Warren and his father Hal, played by Scheider, that Freundlich finds his film's heart and meaning. The aversion toward communication on both their parts is self-evident but when we finally discover the cause for it Freundlich's grasp on why this relatively small incident is significant, why it carries such weight, is what impresses most. Because he doesn't psychoanalayze the situation, perhaps knowing he cannot or perhaps seeing it as pointless, but rather just allows it to exist unstated as a perfect representation for all that has gone wrong between the two; the deep disappointment of a frustratingly unassailable divide. The reason for this is accepted as too remote to be knowable and that harsh fact is the deepest disappointment of all as it prevents any attempt at reconciliation; the suggestion of reason's irrelevance is also quietly devastating. Wyle's passive character and his emotional fragility will seem risible to some but is in its own way a radical move, a character not designed to appease audience desires for identification and another indicator of Freundlich's serious intent. It is also, perhaps, explanation enough for the remove between father and son.

On another level, the aesthetic achievement is remarkable for being so similarly pitched, so subtle in its emphases. One cut comes to mind. Warren's reunion with his estranged girlfriend ends with a very distanced long shot of the two sitting together in silence in the midst of a clearing of ice. The source of their fracture has been traced to the actions of Warren's father but more specifically his remoteness, his inaccessibility. We cut to Scheider walking alone elsewhere carrying the family's Thanksgiving turkey and we get the implication of his isolation and its potentially self-enforced nature. Nothing else is made of it but that clarity serves to ground our own experience with the narrative itself.

I remember that when this picture came out (which is pretty much the last time anything has been said about it) it was derided for its bourgeoisie sympathies. But Freundlich never denies these are the particular problems of a certain kind of privilege, that they would not come into being otherwise. He does not apologize for that; does not treat his characters dismissively, their buried pain with any less care or view it as having any less legitimacy. It is this astute dedication to emotional honesty that earns our respect (and reminds me of the profound powers of observation in the fiction of Andre Dubus).

Freundlich has yet to make another film to rank with this one. But I take comfort from the certainty that he is capable of it.

I would recommend, AW, that you consider this as a spotlight film for the 90's list project. I would do it myself but already have a couple other titles in mind that are even more obscure and deserving of coverage.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2014 5:53 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:21 am
Excellent review - Thanks for the post. I honestly thought I would not get any responses to my OP, since TMOF is such an obscure film - also, as far as I can tell, the DVD has been OOP for years....


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2015 4:34 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:57 pm
Location: Rollin' down Highway 41
Makes me happy that I bought mine at the time.


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