"Empathy" is an absorbing docudrama about psychoanalysis that eventually questions the way movies are viewed. Balancing surfeit of ideas with a sure hand, helmer-poet Amie Siegel delivers a provocative, confident film that fests will feel for, distribs could analyze and cablers will embrace.

“Empathy” is an absorbing docudrama about psychoanalysis that eventually questions the way movies are viewed. Balancing surfeit of ideas with a sure hand, helmer-poet Amie Siegel delivers a provocative, confident film that fests will feel for, distribs could analyze and cablers will embrace.

Beginning as a docu querying various practitioners, pic transitions into fictional story of voiceover actress Lia (Gigi Buffington) and her own progress in psychoanalysis. Over time, effort morphs into faintly tongue-in-cheek docu on psychoanalysis itself (narrated by Lia, on a freelance job), which itself branches off into history of modernist architecture and furniture (including Charles Eames’ famed “Billy Wilder Couch”). Scattered throughout are screen tests by various women for the role of Lia. Eventually, supposedly fictitious medico reveals himself as the real thing, while most of the participants gather at a party apparently thrown by helmer (eliciting same vertiginous effect as Lindsay Anderson’s similar gambit in his 1973 “O Lucky Man!”). Siegel’s cast of actual doctors, industrial talent and performance-artist pals is calibrated precisely to pic’s pitch, with functional tech credits never intruding on the steady, stimulating march of ideas.

Empathy

Production

An Amie Siegel production with Three-Legged Cat Prods. Produced, directed, written, edited by Siegel.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm and DV-to-35mm), Mark Rance. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 13, 2003. Running time: 96 MINS.

With

Gigi Buffington, Dr. David Solomon, Maria Silvermann, Patricia Donegan, Alix Pearlstein, Aria Wachtel Knee.
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