Here’s Looking at You, Kid.
At first sight, the couple walking and dining throughout Paris appear to be lovers. We are mistaken. Daniel, a trim and fortyish intellectual with a voice like Patrick Bauchau (The Rapture, 1991), is played by Jeremy Herman, the writer of Hardly Bear to Look at You (2009). Stella is a pretty performance artist in her early twenties, played by Anna Neil. A few years ago, Neil starred in a short film called The Yacht (2006), which was written and co-directed by Herman. The other director who also starred in The Yacht was Huck Melnick, who directed his first feature-length film, Hardly Bear to Look at You.
If you are enjoying the giddy sensation of your brain spinning, keep reading.
Daniel, an artist as well a connoisseur of fine food and wines, acts as a mentor to Stella. It’s questionable whether Stella realizes she is his muse — Sylvia to Daniel’s Marcello. Wandering the streets of Paris, he takes her out to restaurants and bars. Their relationship is one of flirtation, but never becomes one as intimate as in Guinevere (1999), though the Audrey Wells film took a more lacerating view of such a coupling. Daniel and Stella sleep in the same bed without sleeping with each other. Upon the description of this May-August romance, Daniel is surprisingly more sympathetic because Stella is never a victim and clearly has the upper hand here. Any advance made by him is either encouraged or vetoed. Director Melnick makes no judgment calls here, but I wish that Daniel had been scorched at least once. His feelings toward her are genuine, so why not challenge him?
He is utterly infatuated with her. The first two minutes of the film simply watches Stella sleeping in the morning light. Great concentration is made to the movement of her feathery collar as she inhales and exhales. Somehow, this does not feel perverse; it is a form of adoration in the sweetest sense. Known to savor the strong tartness of an olive, Daniel commits a silent declaration when he slides an olive into his pants pocket. More obvious is the shot of his jean-clad crotch after he has asked (read: directs) Stella to climb up three flights of stairs to ask her something. He admits to her that he has had sex with a number of women, including prostitutes. Stella claims to having had just a few lovers, but we suspect otherwise, considering how flirtatious and often she runs into other men she knew way back when. Sometimes she is cruel while feigning tactfulness. Being too close to Daniel’s perspective, his jealousy is infectious.