Opening 5 Jan 2006
Writer-director Sally Potter is never mainstream (e.g., Orlando, The Tango Lesson, and The Man Who Cried) and Yes is true to form. A “cleaning lady” (the word that caused Steve Martin to suffer spasms in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid) is vacuuming the mansion of a politician-scientist couple. We – the audience – are sitting inside the vacuum cleaner as dust blows past us, and the housekeeper talks into the camera, philosophizing about dirt, both real and symbolic.
“She,” the scientist wife, is vulnerable to the advances of a Lebanese waiter, “He,” who says about her, “I wouldn’t let such a beauty out of my sight, not for one moment.” Their affair begins, because of, or in spite of, their differences: older-younger, educated-blue collar, Irish/American-Lebanese, Christian-Arab, married-single, dissatisfied-realistic. They experience passion, crisis and separation. In the end, they head towards mature love, but not before discussing the Koran, the Bible, the U.S. (“powerful, big boss”) versus the Arab world, individual responsibility, the individual in general, shame, dignity, greed, faith, and what replaced communism. A motley kitchen crew also has opinions in the restaurant where the waiter works. “She” travels to Ireland to fulfill a promise to her elderly aunt.
Visually beautiful, the colors in Potter’s film are white, blue and cool in the world of “She,” and brown, red and warm around the Arab. The cameraman must have been supple to undergo the contortions of shooting from the floor in a corner between the legs of a chair, to name one example. Joan Allen and Simon Abkarian are fine as the leads. Yes was filmed on location in Beirut, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Belfast, and London. (Becky Tan)