(DOCU - 16mm)
A Joseph Lovett Pictures production. Produced, directed, written by Joseph Lovett. Camera (B&W/color, 16mm), Bill Charette, Dick Holden, David Sasser, Joe Vitagliano, Jeb Bergh, Samuel Lovett; editor, Douglas O'Connor. Reviewed on videocassette, L.A. June 4, 1999. (In SXSW, LA. Indie, N.Y. Gay & Lesbian film festivals.) Running time: 97 MIN.
An obsessive journey into the past is at the center of Joseph Lovett's "The Accident," a mildly engaging documentary driven by his need to know who his parents were, particularly his mother, who died in a freak accident when he was 13. Despite its universal family concerns, docu is not strong enough for theatrical release, but it should travel the festival road toward a destination on the small screen as a sampler of regional indie cinema (in this case, from Providence, R.I.).
Turning 50 proved to be a "momentous occasion" for Lovett, as he says in his personal narration, for the very reason that few members of his family have lived that long. Browsing through photographs and relying on extensive interviews with his siblings, Lovett reconstructs his childhood as the youngest of five and seemingly favorite of his parents, who were in their 40s when he was conceived.
Docu is structured as a "journey of discovery," begun in 1974, when Lovett first filmed his family in their Cape Cod house on the occasion of the 40th birthday of his brother Paul, a lawyer. As expected, different testimonies create a "Rashomon"-like portrait of his parents, with consensus forming that his father was the more "emotionally demonstrative and gregarious" and his mother the more "frosty and repressed."
The entire Lovett clan suffered when it was decided to separate the children because of their mother's death. Mostly relying on the talking heads of his siblings, all of whom died in the 1990s from cancer, Lovett gives off the impression of a sad man who was orphaned as a child and has never truly recovered from the traumatic events that have shaped his life.
Lovett attempts to answer the kinds of questions that usually intrigue children about their parents regarding such delicate issues as their courtship, sex lives and intimate relationships. Through this anthropological kind of memoir, each member of the family expresses his innermost feelings about their parents, confronting the "demons" that tortured their souls as youngsters. In the last reel, Lovett recreates, bizarrely and methodically, the car accident in their back yard in which his mother lost her life before his eyes. He repeats the images leading to the fateful accident over and over again, as if to persuade himself that it did happen, stressing his lifelong need to come to terms with it.
Though there are hints spread throughout about Lovett's sexual orientation, the disclosure that he is gay and in a happy, two-decade-long relationship, rather disappointingly arrives only at the very end of the film, accentuating the insider/outsider approach of the director toward his subject. Tech credits are decent, but voiceover narration is too extensive and not always revelatory.