Bodies, Rest & Motion

(Michael Steinberg, USA, 1993)


Bodies, Rest & Motion explores the interpersonal territory that was been mapped out variously in the ’90s by Bret Easton Ellis’s novel Less Than Zero, Hal Hartley’s arthouse hits such as Simple Men (1992), Cameron Crowe’s comedy Singles (1992) and Michael Almereyda’s remarkable Pixelvision video Another Girl, Another Planet (1992).

In this new genre, characters play out a game of love in a cool, loveless world; casual intimacy comes easy but any more profound form of commitment gives most players the shivers.

Stories of this sort eschew any old-fashioned political understanding of private life, opting instead for a seedily glamorous “chaos theory” of relationships: people are not individuals but atoms, bodies at rest or in motion, pulled by vague desire in and out of successive personal attachments.

Such is the human condition for the characters of this film: Nick (Tim Roth) who splits from his partner Beth (Bridget Fonda) just as they are packing to leave Arizona and set up a new life together; Carol (Phoebe Cates) who is uneasily both Beth’s best friend and Nick’s ex-lover; and Sid (Eric Stoltz), a painter who arrives to prepare Beth and Nick’s place for its new tenants.

The film is deliberately low on plot, but high on style. Director Michael Steinberg (whose previous effort was The Waterdance [1992], co-directed with Neal Jimenez) has obviously been influenced by Jane Campion’s Sweetie (1989), judging from the orgy of odd angles and filters, the multiplication of frozen, silent moments, and a soulful a cappella chorus on the soundtrack.

It is in many respects an odd movie – a languorous art film conjured by members of the ’80s Brat Pack generation – which is probably why it escaped a proper cinema release in Australia.

Despite its immense intrinsic interest, Bodies, Rest & Motion has some serious flaws – especially Tim Roth, who is at his worst when encouraged to swagger and mumble as he does here. Fonda and Stoltz are wonderful, however, in the central pas de deux of the film. When Beth wards off Sid’s protestations of deep, sincere feeling by murmuring “come inside me”, you know you are watching a peculiarly modern love story.

MORE modern love: Three of Hearts, Reality Bites, Tempo

© Adrian Martin June 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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