A Gorgeous Oversimplification of Melodrama at The Montclair Film Festival


Montclair Film Festival audiences saw an extended director’s cut of Terence Nance’s beautiful film, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty.  At least that’s what Nance, who scripted, directed, acted in, animated, and wrote music for the film, told those who attended the Friday night screening of this “one-sided non-fiction” documentary.  Future screenings at other festivals will have various scenes cut out, including references to Prince’s Purple Rain. If you want to see the extended cut, make sure to get tickets to Sunday’s screening of the film for the Montclair Film Festival.

Begun as a short film during an emotionally turbulent time in the filmmaker’s life, the infusion of bias and animation and music and romanticism makes it more like an art installation than a documentary.  And the various film styles Terence Nance includes in his feature create a multi-sensory experience that turns its audience into an invited voyeur to the unrequited (so we are led to believe) love at its core. The images, which may seem jumbled and chaotic at times, reflect the thoughts and emotions of sometime straining to come to terms with shortcomings and desires.

At once intimate and publicly self-aware, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty uses editing to emphasize the introspective nature of the film’s message. In the Q&A, Nance responded to a question about the repetitive nature of the storytelling and editing saying that it was meant to show the frustration of making the same relationship mistakes over an over again.  He also talked about the use of color to create melodrama “to the point of absurdity” so that it reflected the emotional extremes, according to Nance, felt by many males who need to mask their feelings when in intense relationships. As an example of the melodrama, at one point, Terence replaces the valediction “love” in a letter to his intended with “An artform slightly removed from its intended context.” Melodrama, yes, but beautiful nonetheless.


During the Q&A, Terence Nance said he wrote the movie first in the form of a song – verse/chord/verse/chord.  But soon it became a project that utilized all of his artistic skills and brought him out of his comfort zone.  Since Nance began working on the film while earning his M.F.A. at New York University, he was free to utilize many visual art forms without holding a loyalty to any specific style.  Combining dialogue, narration, raw footage, animated sequences of varying forms, and recreated scenes, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty ends up feeling very much like a memory or half-forgotten dream.  As an audience member described it, it is “Artistic. Afrocentric. Existential. Romantic.”  And it’s definitely worth seeing in its extended form.

The Montclair Film Festival’s second showing of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is the very last film of the festival on Sunday night at 9:50 p.m. There are tickets available.

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