Comedy Movie

The Feeling That the Time For Doing Something Has Passed

I watched “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed” on headphones, in my room, trying to stay out of sight while my roommate had a date over. This is, if not the ideal way to experience this film, at least an appropriate one. Joanna Arnow’s second feature is a symphony of ambient embarrassment, whose movements are structured around the various men with whom the protagonist, Ann (Arnow), has relationships of varying length and ambivalence. Within these movements, Arnow hits uncomfortable notes that range from cutting corporate indignities to the ritualized abjection of erotic humiliation. 

The story unfolds in a series of dryly comic vignettes, beginning with a supremely awkward scene where a completely nude Ann rubs herself up against a fully clothed lover, telling him how hot it is that he doesn’t care about her pleasure. It’s not clear how much of this is an intentional kink scene and how much is Ann talking herself into interpreting his indifference as erotic. That’s the case with many of her interactions with Allen (Scott Cohen), with whom she’s had a casual BDSM relationship for nine years but who can’t (or won’t) remember basic facts about her life. 

There’s a larger element of self-imposed humiliation in the way Arnow exposes herself on camera, both emotionally and physically, in this film. (In the tradition of Chantal Akerman [and, yes, Lena Dunham], Arnow performs all of her own sex scenes in this movie.) This is how her character gets off, and if there’s any element of autobiography at play here—which there presumably is, considering that her parents co-star as themselves—then the filmmaker must be getting off on it a little bit, too. It’s a testament to the skill with which Arnow manipulates tone that this comes across as just another nuance on the spectrum of the film’s uncomfortable emotions rather than a creepy imposition. 

Although the scenarios in this film are mortifyingly realistic—this is the most truthful depiction of BDSM I’ve ever seen in a movie, full stop—the dialogue is written to be pithier and more stylized than the way the average person talks. This can be jarring at times, but it appears to be a deliberate stylistic choice in that Arnow is distancing herself from the material via her deadpan delivery and painful exchanges while simultaneously exposing the most sensitive parts of herself on screen. (Ironically, a scene where Ann sings passages from Les Misérables by heart is the most vulnerable moment in a film that also features extensive full-frontal nudity.)  

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