Daring. Modern. Wildly bold. These generally aren’t the words that spring to mind when one thinks of Boaz Yakin, a director who followed up an awesome debut (1994’s Fresh) with anonymous studio fluff (Remember the Titans, Uptown Girls) and snoozy torture porn (he produced the first two Hostel films). Originally set to premiere in the SXSW’ s Visions section in March, Yakin’s new film AVIVA, a New York relationship drama with tons of graphic sex and uhm, expressive dance, hits virtual cinemas this weekend and it might be the exciting movie you’ll see all year – and perhaps the most frustrating.
From the first scene, AVIVA announces itself as an unconventional mindfuck that’s willing to chuck the rules out the window: with the camera crew visible, a naked woman (Bobbi Jene Smith) informs us that she’s not an actress but a dancer and choreographer. The following two hours focus on the relationship between Aviva and Eden, a couple who meet online and decide to give it a go in real life, but there’s a catch – both characters are played by two actors, one male one female, and they live in world where people whimsically break into dance at any given moment.
Ok. It’s a lot to take at first, but once you just give into the film’s kooky “anything goes” vibe, AVIVA starts to make other recent relationship dramas feel positively safe and boring. Although the device of having four actors play two parts renders the actual storyline a bit hard to follow and most of the acting is borderline atrocious, AVIVA has an admirably defiant playfulness you don’t come across often, especially in films that aren’t specifically queer. (Did we mention how weirdly heterosexual this all feels, despite the gay sex?) Unfortunately, the film is unable to sustain the energy as the narrative gets lost in an endless sea of voiceover and monologue and dance fuckery…but wow! A+ for effort.
AVIVA is out June 12 in virtual cinemas