A belated follow up to his 1997 shrug-of-a-movie Fall, Eric Schaeffer’s After Fall, Winter (2011) is the most narcissistic, shallow piece of filmmaking the entire festival had to offer. As ever with films such as this, our protagonist Michael (played by Schaeffer himself) is a failed writer who moves to Paris for seemingly no reason other than to pace the rain washed streets at night, gurning like a man whose face has been anaesthetised.
Through a tired plot contrivance, Michael ends up tumbling madly in love with a Parisian Dominatrix (Lizzie Brocheré), who naturally reciprocates his adoration, presumably intoxicated by Michael – old enough to be her father – and his pedantic ways. Or it could perhaps be his overflowing belly that the film treats us to viewing on numerous occasions.
This reviewer has a hard enough time stomaching the endless cycle of male-directed pieces that feature young nubiles falling for leery older men; one in which the lead star also writes, directs and produces is beyond my tolerance levels, particularly when the male romantic lead is so painfully self-involved. Schaeffer ensures that almost every scene ends with him having sex or at least sticking his middle-aged tongue down Brocheré’s throat.
Schaeffer also ensures that, in the brief hiatuses between his scenes, his characters are at least talking about him. To top it off – and those who wish to inflict the film upon themselves, stop reading now – Schaeffer ends the film with the woman literally sacrificing herself for him, a moment that had the audience in geysers of tears, but which I found completely deplorable.
Despite being shot on RED digital (Bulgaria’s Tilt being a prime example of the camera’s capabilities), After Fall, Winter’s cinematographer Zoran Veljkovic ensures that every frame looks like daytime television, hindered greatly by the unimaginative construction of each scene, as though pieced together through careful study of a directing-by-numbers handbook. That said, David Cronenberg famously taught himself filmmaking from a guide, so After Fall, Winter, the director’s eighth film, has no excuse.
It is worth noting that After Fall, Winter features one standout scene (incidentally, one of the only ones that stands independent of Schaeffer’s character) involving a house call made to Brocheré’s S&M queen – if there is one aspect of the film to take away, it is her warm and unpredictable performance, despite a thankless part. A laughable subplot involving her character nursing a cancer-stricken gypsy child fails to convince the audience that the film is about anything other than Schaeffer’s desire to watch himself cop off with a younger woman for two hours – frankly, one wishes he had kept his dirty home movies to himself.