The Pleasure of Being Robbed
Stolen moments in 'Pleasure'
There are several ways to approach "The Pleasure of Being Robbed," the low-budget, even lower-fi film opening at the MFA today. One way is to consider Josh Safdie's film the work of a movie-besotted college graduate who has the films of Bresson and early Godard flowing through his veins and who thinks he can make "Pickpocket" or "Breathless" merely by turning on a camera. He can't, but what he has made isn't without value.
Another way to look at "Pleasure," which follows the aimless ramblings of a petty thief named Eleonore (Eleonore Hendricks), is as belonging to the DIY esthetic of post-Internet filmmaking. Safdie and Hendricks are part of a BU-educated, New York-based collective known as Red Bucket Films, and there's a shaggy communal vibe to the group's short efforts (some of which can be seen at www.redbucketfilms.com) that bespeaks both ambition and deep slack.
Lank-haired and childlike, Eleonore breezes through lower Manhattan swiping purses and cars not because she needs the money but because, in ways she can't begin to articulate, the world is her oyster and everything should belong to her. "Pleasure" dares us not to like its heroine, and, lo and behold, we don't. The movie's refusal to judge is its most interesting attribute, if one many audiences won't be able to get around.
The movie is largely plotless, although something like a storyline surfaces when Eleonore gives a lift to a friend, Josh (played with gangly charm by the director), driving him to Boston in her stolen car. The rootless yearning that punctuates the Hub scenes, as Josh warily tries to get closer to Eleonore, is the closest the film comes to real emotion.
Ultimately, that's not close enough. Shot on super-16 with a grungy dorm-room sound mix, the movie makes an affectation of affectlessness. Perhaps the best way to approach the film is as a director's love-letter to his star, of the sort Godard once made for Anna Karina. Hendricks is no Karina, unfortunately, and "Pleasure" is more instant-messaging than poetry.
Being shown before "The Pleasure of Being Robbed" is "The Acquaintances of a Lonely John," a loopily comic Boston-set short directed by and starring Safdie's kid brother, Ben. There's talent to the Red Bucket gang, and it's just beginning to show itself.
Ty Burr can be reached at email@example.com.