Mary-Louise Parker (Fried Green Tomatoes) stars in this award-winning film that explores life and love through the five senses. The talented ensemble cast brings humor and passion to five troubled and triumphant characters struggling to make sense of their world. Together, they have almost nothing in common except the desire to experience true intimacy. Through taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell, their secret lives unfold, until, one by one, each is drawn out of their shell and into a world that promises to re-ignite the passion in their souls.
The Five Senses 8.5
It only took a decade, but I finally got my hands on a copy of this film! I had originally seen this film when it first came out on DVD, back when I worked at a video store, but I never saw this anywhere again, either brand new or second-hand. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a brand new copy, in a dust bin, for 1$. After all this time, I just HAD to make this one a priority.
At this point, all I remembered was that there was something in the film about a lost little girl, and that both Molly Parker and Pascale Bussière were in it. That alone is a fantasy made reality, being a HUGE fan of both actresses, but I also already knew that I had loved this film way back when. So I made it part of my canadiana set this week and I kept this one for last on purpose, even though I knew it would be hard for it to compete with ‘Last Night’.
I wasn’t terribly sure if this film was one of those artsy things that was metaphorical and that would involve the five senses in some ways, kind of like Kieslowski’s ‘Bleu’/’Blanc’/’Rouge’ trilogy did with colours, but I suspected that it would. Actually, I hoped so, ’cause I always like that sort of thing.
After watching it, I’m a tad bit confused as to how the senses were incorporated in this film. Now I remember not being able to piece it together back in the day either, so I suspect that either my brain isn’t sharp enough or the film isn’t as clear as it could be. Evidently, some of the characters relate to a specific sensory worlds, but they’re not all main characters and some are linked to two of them:
Hearing (and sight): Philippe Volter plays an optometrist who is losing his hearing. Not only is he an audiophile, who has had season tickets to the orchestra for years, but he also likes to eavesdrop on his neighbours.
Sight: Nadia Litz is developing a penchant for voyeurism. Her father used to take pictures of her, and she spends much time dressing up and looking at herself in the mirror. She befriends another voyeur and her sudden interest in watching others is the catalyst for what happens in some of the rest of the film.
Smell: Daniel MacIvor plays a house cleaner who has become obsessed with scents. He believes that Love has a specific scent and that, by picking up another’s scent he can know if they are in love with him. Desperate for love, he gets in touch with many of his past flames, trying to rekindle/salvage some sort of relationship.
Taste: Mary-Louise Parker is a cake maker who has never really invested that much importance in the taste of her cakes; she focuses mostly on their appearance. And yet, she is orally-focused – she enjoys great-tasting food, talks on the phone all the time and enjoys using her mouth in love-making.
Touch: Gabrielle Rose is a massage therapist who brings deep comfort to people with her hands, but finds it difficult to relate with them in other contexts, including her daughter.
They’re all connected in some ways, but they’re all people who have a hole in their core. They all have other connections to make along the way to feel whole again, such as with a mother (Molly Parker ) who just lost her young daughter in the park, an italian lover who suddenly comes to town, a challenging parent, a couple that our cleaner visits semi-regularly, a call girl (Pascale Bussière ) who is more than “all-business”, and a cross-dressing young man.
The film portends to make them full beings by the end, but it doesn’t really bring closure to all of them. At least, not in my estimation. Perhaps the filmmaker thought that the final moment with Mary-Louise Parker’s character signified growth of some sort, but to me it seemed more like escapism than facing her life; I don’t think she learned much and will need to face that which she’s escaping soon enough.
However, the only thing that truly bothers me is the child’s disappearance: I never got this sense that any of the main characters were doing anything to find her – they were all too busy with their personal pain, I suppose. And yet, it’s an omnipresent part of the film. To me, it seems overly important considering its role and easy despatch. It was obviously just a way to connect characters.
I also found it very difficult to know in what way ‘The Five Senses’ is metaphorical, or if it was even meant to be. Were the five senses only tools to bring together interesting characters, or was there a deeper meaning that I didn’t quite catch on? This sort of film frequently has more than one level, but I can’t seem to pick up on another one, if any.
Still, it’s hard to dislike the film despite its ambiguity and minor flaws. It’s a character-driven piece that is rich in honest, emotional and oft-humourous dialogue and is constructed with utterly fascinating people; whether one relates to them or not, they are three-dimensional creations given life by very good performances.