December 2012 – January 2013

Arts & Letters

‘Love Story’ by Florian Habicht (director)

By Michael Lucy

There are times and places to wear a fedora: while boot-legging in 1920s Chicago, for instance, or while being Michael Jackson. Florian Habicht, Love Story’s gangly Kiwi director, co-writer and protagonist, reckons another is while starring in a self-consciously quirky meta-fictional romance on the streets of New York.

At the film’s outset Habicht, playing himself, spies Masha (Masha Yakovenko), a toothily beautiful woman holding a cartoonish slice of cake, on the train. As he recounts to his father (Frank Habicht) in German via video chat while sitting in his bathtub, he is instantly smitten (“Typical Florian,” says Habicht vater) and takes to the street to ask passers-by what his odds are of bumping into Masha again. (“Very little,” according to one, “but it does happen all the time.”)

And so the schtick is set, as a more or less scripted and acted love story unfolds between Florian and Masha, interleaved with vox pops and the Habichts’ bath-time chats. Soon enough the public become co-writers and chorus as Habicht asks stranger after stranger what should happen next, then dutifully acts out their suggestions with Masha. Eventually, in a twist that surprises no one, the real-life Habicht falls in love with the real-life Masha (or does he?).

If all this confection makes you feel tired, Love Story probably isn’t for you. It’s a pity, though, as the ‘experimental’ gestures get in the way of the film’s strengths. Habicht and director of photography Maria Ines Manchego paint a warm and generous picture of New York as a homely, run-down town filled with larger than life characters, all of whom seem happy to chat about the direction of the film and, still on camera, sign release forms. Habicht’s father, a noted 1960s photographer, shines with his mixture of kindly advice and enthusiastic avant-gardist loopiness. 

“I’m not your fantasy,” Masha says early on, and she’s right. Habicht’s real fantasy seems to be of himself as an auteur taking a bite of the Big Apple. Still, striking images abound. Masha eats breakfast cereal from the hollow in Habicht’s sunken chest (“Super!” rejoices the father. “It’s not something people have seen before in a feature film.”); a row of pigeons elegantly takes flight from a roofline; a midget Michael Jackson impersonator dances on the waterfront.

Which brings us back to the hat. Habicht, a grown man in the 21st century, also wears skinny apricot-coloured jeans and a Sesame Street T-shirt. Like so much else here, they may be ironic or sincere, accidental or intentional, clothes or costume. We never find out why Masha had that cake, but Habicht would’ve wanted to eat it, too.

Michael Lucy

Michael Lucy is the online editor of the Monthly.

@MmichaelLlucy

‘Love Story’ by Florian Habicht (director), In limited release
Cover: December 2012 – January 2013

December 2012 – January 2013

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