Dallas IFF: Thursday (4/15) – ‘Obselidia’

“With new things becoming old in months instead of years, I just want to slow things down a bit.”

George’s speech and manner make him seem like someone from a different era; that he works as a librarian but spends his days cataloging things that are obsolete might make him seem like a kook.  George is as committed to his “Encyclopedia of Obsolete Things” as someone else might be to writing poetry or maintaining a garden.  Like George, writer/director Diane Bell’s Obselidia meanders quietly, but with a purpose, and ultimately provides a sweetly endearing look at a man who believes “love is obsolete” even though it seems fair to say he’s never experienced it.

Interviewing people who deal in outmoded things, George (Michael Piccirilli) meets Sophie(Gaynor Howe), a projectionist at a silent movie theater, and they strike up a conversation that immediately makes the film into a lyrical meet-cute with existential overtones.  A sudden and convenient road trip to Death Valley, where George is to interview a reclusive scientist (Frank Hoyt Taylor), gives the pair a chance to relate to each other and experience life in ways he wouldn’t have been able to in his museum-like home.  What follows includes bees, a ghost town, a dead body and a sunrise.  And what the pair find is that the answers in life are sometimes as simple and giddy as a pogo-stick in the desert.

Obselidia has a nice, easy feel to it, only once broken up by a brief and unnecessary montage accompanied by a grating, generic pop song.   And when they meet the scientist, the film almost becomes a green-themed polemic with a top-heavy message that rings false amidst all the surrounding love story possibilities.  George opens up a little bit, which seems perfectly realistic given his strapped down, introverted personality and their overall journey.  Had he been a completely different person by the end it would have felt false.

Obselidia ends on a sweet and uplifting note that feels completely genuine.  It is a surprisingly contemplative and simple film, with frequently gorgeous camerawork.  While most films loudly clamor to be clever and in your face, it works so well because it is comfortable being still and quiet, and in that you will discover a certain gracefulness.

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