December 2012 – January 2013

Arts & Letters

‘Love Story’ by Florian Habicht (director)

By Michael Lucy
‘Love Story’ by Florian Habicht (director), In limited release

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 a writer based in Melbourne.

@MmichaelLlucy

From the front page

cartoon:In light of recent events

In light of recent events

Who’s preferencing whom?

Detail of cover of Simon Tedeschi’s ‘Fugitive’

Ghost notes: Simon Tedeschi’s ‘Fugitive’

A virtuoso memoir of music and trauma, and his experiences as a child prodigy, from the acclaimed Australian pianist

Image of Steve Toltz

The quip and the dead: Steve Toltz’s ‘Here Goes Nothing’

A bleakly satirical look at death and the afterlife from the wisecracking author of ‘A Fraction of the Whole’

Composite image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking during the first leaders’ debate on April 20, 2022. Image © Jason Edwards / AAP Images

Election special: Who should you vote for?

Undecided about who to vote for in the upcoming federal election? Take our quiz to find out your least-worst option!

In This Issue

Julia Gillard visiting the Forbidden City, Beijing, April 2011. © David Foote/Commonwealth of Australia

White-papering the Cracks

A blueprint for the Asian Century?

On the Nose

The rise of cricket’s faceless men

JM Coetzee, Cape Town, 1991. Image supplied

On His Terms

JC Kannemeyer’s ‘JM Coetzee: A Life in Writing’

Anna Funder © Marco Del Grande/Fairfax Syndication

Free Agent

Anna Funder finds her feet in Brooklyn


More in Arts & Letters

Detail of cover of Simon Tedeschi’s ‘Fugitive’

Ghost notes: Simon Tedeschi’s ‘Fugitive’

A virtuoso memoir of music and trauma, and his experiences as a child prodigy, from the acclaimed Australian pianist

Still from ‘Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood’

One small step: ‘Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood’ and ‘Deep Water’

Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped film evokes the optimism of late-1960s America, while Patricia Highsmith’s thriller gets another disappointing adaptation

Image of Steve Toltz

The quip and the dead: Steve Toltz’s ‘Here Goes Nothing’

A bleakly satirical look at death and the afterlife from the wisecracking author of ‘A Fraction of the Whole’

Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, ‘Dibirdibi country’ (2008

Art heist: The landmark conviction of an Aboriginal art centre’s manager

The jailing of Mornington Island Art’s chief executive for dishonest dealing has shone a light on ethics and colonialism in the Indigenous art world


More in Noted

Cover of Robert Lukins’ ‘Loveland’

‘Loveland’

Robert Lukins’ second novel takes a Brisbane woman to Nebraska, where an inheritance sparks a change in character as well as in fortune

Still from ‘We Own This City’

‘We Own This City’

David Simons, creator of ‘The Wire’, returns to Baltimore for a present-day examination of rapacious police corruption

Still from ‘Slow Horses’

‘Slow Horses’

A sardonic Gary Oldman heads a misfit branch of MI5 in Apple TV+’s thrilling exploration of personal motivation and political expedience

Image from ‘The Golden Cockerel’

‘The Golden Cockerel’

Barrie Kosky’s Adelaide production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera satirising the Russo-Japanese War came with uneasy resonances


Online exclusives

Composite image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking during the first leaders’ debate on April 20, 2022. Image © Jason Edwards / AAP Images

Election special: Who should you vote for?

Undecided about who to vote for in the upcoming federal election? Take our quiz to find out your least-worst option!

Image of the Stone of Remembrance at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

Remembrance or forgetting?

The Australian War Memorial and the Great Australian Silence

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, Labor MP Emma McBride and shadow housing minister Jason Clare after meeting with young renter Lydia Pulley during a visit to her home in Gosford on May 3, 2022. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

Property damage

What will it take for Australia to fix the affordable housing crisis?

Image of Daniel Johns. Image © Luke Eblen

Present indicative: Daniel Johns’ ‘FutureNever’

The former Silverchair frontman’s second solo album lacks cohesion, but affords him space to excavate his past