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Review: In The Soup

Caught a screening of Alexandre Rockwell’s In the Soup at IFC Center.

I’ve been meaning to watch this since I first saw Four Rooms, the anthology film Rockwell made in collaboration with fellow Sundance Brats Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Allison Anders. It certainly lives up to the expectations I’d built up over the years (based on a scant handful of grainy clips and stills); In the Soup is a gorgeously-crafted absurdist comedy. Sure, it initially appears to be a painfully typical, self-indulgent ‘90s indie flick—the protagonist is a wannabe auteur, and the visual style (black-and-white cinematography, chiaroscuro lighting, naturalistic sets) is way too evocative of European art house cinema—but in this case, those very elements work to the story’s advantage, because that’s exactly how our pretentious, arrogant, neurotic point-of-view character imagines the movie of his life.

Fortunately, despite its highbrow influences, In the Soup’s humorous tone keeps the narrative grounded (I especially enjoyed the frequent contradictions between the onscreen action and the narration), as does Steve Buscemi’s earnest performance, which prevents our flawed hero from becoming completely unlikable. It is, simply put, magnificent; I sincerely hope that this beautiful new restoration from Factory 25 will earn it the mainstream recognition it so richly deserves (an appropriate—albeit belated—gift for its twenty-fifth anniversary).

[Originally written July 7, 2018.]

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