Moment of Impact
Director: Julia Loktev
NY Distribution Status: now playing (Anthology Film Archives)

Grade: C

Negative reactions to movies are every bit as heterogeneous as are appreciations, despite the unfortunate tendency of my generation -- at least as represented on Usenet -- to tar every misfire with the same all-purpose brush: "Man, that sucked." Some films repel; some frustrate; some bewilder; far too many simply altogether fail to engage the imagination. I can count on the fingers of one of Mickey Mouse's hands, however, the number of movies I've seen that have actively angered me; as you've no doubt guessed, this opportunistic exercise in exploitation is one of 'em. No, there's nothing inherently wrong with the notion of turning personal tragedy into art, and Loktev's mother, who has rather stoically devoted herself to the herculean task of caring for her severely brain-damaged husband (the title refers to the destiny-altering instant in which he was struck by a speeding car while crossing the street between two yard sales), is a worthy subject, memorably saturnine. Loktev herself, for that matter, isn't entirely without interest (to the limited extent that she allows herself to appear in her own documentary), and I would defend to the potential nosebleed her right to explore her conflicted reactions to her father's condition and its effect on her family. I draw the line, however, when it comes to repeatedly shoving a camera into the face of a man who's incapable of vocally declining to participate in the project, especially when he's clearly a) cognizant of what's happening, and b) mightily pissed off. Over and over, Loktev bullies her father with requests for him to say something, attempt to communicate, c'mon dad just say something, look over here, dad, into the lens; it's both the film's most heart-rending moment and a potentially key exhibit in a viewer's legal defense of justifiable homicide when the poor guy finally summons up all of his strength to thickly pronounce the words "Go away." (The Q&A after the New Directors/New Films screening that I attended was by far the most contentious I've ever seen, with more than half of the questions, including my own, amounting to "You're a heartless ghoul! Defend yourself!") By the time the closing credits rolled, I was sick to my stomach; Loktev, who apparently lives not too far from me, had better watch her own step.