We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make the occasional bad decision, but in writer-director Shatara Michelle Ford’s Test Pattern (currently screening at the Virtual Roxie), one character keeps making them — with each mistake seemingly leading to, and compounding, the next. You might, in fact, describe it as a pattern.
Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) is a Black woman with a good job at an Austin charity; Evan (Will Brill) is a white tattoo artist covered with American flags and maps of Texas. After the goofily incoherent Evan approaches Renesha for her phone number — which she gives to him — they end up in a serious relationship where she brings home the bacon and he cooks it.
Out on the town one night to celebrate her new job, Renesha and old pal Amber (Gail Bean) are approached by two pick-up artists who won’t take no for an answer. While single Amber is happy for the attention, attached Renesha is initially resistant to her questing lothario’s advances — the offer of a second drink, the offer of a pot gummy bear and his constant, whining pleas to dance — but ultimately acquiesces to each demand.
Awakening hours later with her dance partner beside her, Renesha remembers nothing, but viewers will easily infer what’s happened. Back home, sympathetic Evan gives way to furious Evan: no longer a sweet pancake-making goofball, he demands she get a ‘rape kit’ in order to ferret out last night’s truth. Renesha would rather forget the whole thing but reluctantly agrees, and the couple begin a maddening quest to find a kit. It’s not easy.
Has Renesha been going along to get along the whole time, or has she been granting consent every step of the way? More importantly, was that consent coerced, or was it given freely — and to whom? These are the questions at the heart of Test Pattern: uncomfortable viewing at best, it’s a thought provoking first-time feature from promising newcomer Ford.
‘Keep an Eye Out’: Defiantly droll and unconventional
I initially planned to top-line this week’s column with Au Poste! (Keep an Eye Out, also screening via the Roxie), but when I noticed the film’s 2018 copyright I had second thoughts. Though written and directed by Big/Small Screen Berkeley favorite Quentin Dupieux, the film was actually completed before Deerskin, a Dupieux feature reviewed in this space last year.
Vintage notwithstanding, Keep an Eye Out is actually superior to Deerskin — which I enjoyed, but didn’t embrace quite as heartily as the director’s 2009 mindbender Rubber. Grégoire Ludig plays Fugain, a regular joe who finds a body outside his apartment building and is hauled in front of police Inspector Buron (Benoît Poelvoorde, decades on from his debut in the once shocking Man Bites Dog (1992), and now resembling a gone-to-seed George C. Scott) for questioning.
Put aside your police procedural preconceptions, because like all Dupieux films Keep An Eye Out is defiantly unconventional. Delightfully droll, resolutely absurd and featuring some hilarious pieces of physical comedy you won’t see coming, this may not be for all tastes, but is a must-see for anyone who enjoyed Deerskin or Rubber.
‘My Darling Supermarket’: Inside a Brazilian grocery store
Finally (and also at the Roxie), Meu Querido Supermercado (My Darling Supermarket) takes us behind the scenes at Veran, a Brazilian grocery where employees muse about manga and particle physics while counting cheese slices and straightening the shelves. One employee incredulously wonders why anyone would choose to watch a film about a supermarket: surely, he says, it would be of interest to no one. Now you have the opportunity to judge for yourself.