Indie Film Review – Borges and I
Borges and I opens with a gimmick: John is an out of work actor who decides to start recording his everyday activities using a button camera on his jacket. The entire film is shot with this button cam, giving us a semi-POV from John’s perspective. It’s a faux documentary where all of the participants are seemingly unaware that they are being filmed.
The surprising thing about this gimmick is how well it actually works. Taken less as a linear narrative and more as a thematic study on perception, the film keeps you hooked with it’s compelling arguments. And even though you understand that it’s a fictional film it still gives you just enough of an authentic voyeuristic tone that you never feel like the actors are putting on a show for the audience’s sake as opposed to having a real conversation.
The film is co-directed by Jonathan Bentovim and Emily Harris and they do a good job of keeping the performances natural. It’s hard to tell but I would guess that many of the conversations are improvised to a degree and they end up feeling like banter in a positive way.
The title comes from a brilliant short story by Jose Luis Borges. The story, (Borges y Yo, in it’s native language) is a bite-sized little riff of a think piece wherein Borges poetically discusses his relationship to himself. Written from a third person perspective he talks about the writer Borges versus the person Borges. He considers them two separate people and yet, he seems to have lost track of where the one ends and the other begins. In life we are products of other people’s perceptions of us. For Borges, he is a writer and he can see the physical effect of his outward life on the world around him but it does not matter. We all have multiple faces.
And so the out of work actor, John, tries to marry these two sides of himself. He knows who he is, but who do other people think he is? Why is he having such a hard time getting work? The button camera is a device through which he hopes to discover how other people see him. His goal is to see how casting people view him and why they might not be giving him work but this little project takes on deeper dimensions. He asks strangers on the street what their first impression of him is. And along the way, he may even find a little romance.
It’s interesting that the films themes seem to be prevalent in so many other films lately and it’s a nice little addition to the conversation. The dichotomy between our inner lives and our public faces is growing wider every day. In the film John decides he’s going to do something about it and the experience is fulfilling in many unexpected ways, which is a pretty good description of Borges and I, come to think of it.
Final Grade: B