(2004)4Derek ArmstrongWhen a director has ambitious technical goals, as Rodrigo García has in Nine Lives, his narrative goals should logically suffer -- at least a little bit. Yet the Colombian writer/director avoids such pitfalls in this impressive collection of short films, each 10 to 15 minutes in length, featuring an array of female characters living in modern-day Los Angeles. Some of their lives intersect, some don't, but each snapshot reveals enough to give that story independent resonance, without the compulsive and gimmicky need to relate everyone to everyone else. Skeptics might argue that García's technique is already gimmick enough. Namely, each short unfurls in real time, captured in a single continuous take using a Steadicam. Not only is this a feat of precise choreography, it also places intense pressure on the actors, whose any stuttered line or missed cue could force them to scrap the whole shot, even moments from completion. For cinematography geeks, it's enthralling to watch Xavier Pérez Grobet's camera snake through a women's prison and navigate the aisles of a grocery store, all while his director (himself a former DP) conducts the actors to their marks at the exact right moment. Almost showing off, García even points the camera into several mirrors, without the recording device once appearing in the reflected image. But Nine Lives is no mere stylistic exercise. García remains fascinated by the social experiences of women, returning to some of the same topics from his film Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, and using a handful of the actresses (Holly Hunter, Glenn Close, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker) from that project as well. His technique illuminates themes from both films. "Just by looking" at these women, during key 10-minute snippets from their lives, a viewer can see the minute suffering that's central to their identities.
Filmmaker Rodrigo García takes an unusual look into the lives of nine different women in this episodic drama. Each of the film's nine sequences has been staged as a single shot, using the Steadicam system to allow the camera to follow the action fluidly and without cuts. In these short episodes (lasting between ten and 14 minutes), Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton) has a brief moment of reverie while confronting the specters of her past in her old neighborhood. Maggie (Glenn Close) escorts her young daughter Maria (Dakota Fanning) to a cemetery as they visit the graves of their family members. Ruth (Sissy Spacek) is a married woman contemplating an affair while visiting Henry (Aidan Quinn) in his hotel room. Diana (Robin Wright Penn) unexpectedly runs into an old boyfriend, Damian (Jason Isaacs), while shopping for groceries. Camilla (Kathy Baker) is a hospital patient awaiting surgery for cancer. Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) is a teenage girl who helps look after her handicapped father Larry (Ian McShane). Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo) is a female prison inmate who is expecting a visit from her children. Sonia (Holly Hunter) lashes out at her boyfriend Martin (Stephen Dillane) when she finds out he's been cheating on her. And Lorna (Amy Brenneman) has an unexpectedly moving encounter with her ex-husband Andrew (William Fichtner) as she pays her respects to his second wife, who has just passed away. Nine Lives premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.