PHANTOM LOVE is a surreal, highly visual drama about an enmeshed family, in which violence and trauma are steadily percolating, just beneath the surface.
The lead character is LULU (Marina Shoif): a very beautiful, but angry and isolated woman, who lives alone, and works in a casino in Korea-town, Los Angeles. Lulu's lover is much younger than herself-the relationship is charged but emotionally disconnected. Lulu's younger sister, NITZAN (Juliette Marquis), is in the midst of a psychotic breakdown, caused in part by prescription medication. Lulu feels emotionally invaded by her mother, who wants to come to town and stay in Lulu's apartment in order to try and help the younger sister-but this feels like a further intense invasion, and Lulu refuses.
PHANTOM LOVE weaves these various elements together into a strange but archetypal story, revealing the interior processes by which Lulu manages to see, and therefore begin to release herself, from the violence which surrounds her.
Like all Nina Menkes's work, PHANTOM LOVE positions an alienated woman against a harsh, inhospitable landscape-this time, within a family. Stylistically, the film combines fairy-tale elements and a dreamy, mystical quality with a gritty, hyper-real, and sometimes almost documentary style, shooting everything on location and often using non-actors ("real" people) in the non-major roles.
Structured like Chinese boxes, with each scene opening onto another, still deeper inside, PHANTOM LOVE is a powerful document about one woman's descent into self.
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