At Tribeca: Lust and Madness on Thirst Street

Tribeca-Thirst Street“The man has something in his eye,” a lavishly dressed Parisian psychic repeats over and over again to a lonely flight attendant named Gina (Lindsay Burdge). Following a ghastly turn of events that has left her longing for a new companion in life, the love-consumed Gina wanders through the bustling streets of Paris on a layover, staring into the eyes of every passing man until she comes across the enchanting Jérôme (Damien Bonnard) when she inevitably stumbles into the club he is bartending. Looking straight out of an 80s De Palma film in an unbuttoned dress shirt, the sweaty, mustachioed bartender immediately grabs her attention, and soon after she notices that one of his eyes is tumefied with conjunctivitis. The encounter quickly turns into a one-night stand after he sweet-talks her, running his hands through her hair, and they return to her hotel. Jérôme wakes to Gina standing over his bedside holding a plate of scrambled eggs, which he scarfs down between kisses. He brushes the night off like any other and returns to his day-to-day life, while Gina falls head-over-heels for him.

Gina’s infatuation quickly escalates. She promptly quits her job to move into a cavernous apartment with an alluring balcony view that allows her to peer straight into Jérôme’s flat. Of the countless laudable qualities of the Crown Heights-based director (and Tribeca Film Festival regular) Nathan Silver’s Thirst Street, perhaps most satisfying is that the swiftness of the narrative never feels hasty. Hugo Lemant’s often sharp cuts avoid any sense of apprehension, instead building a comprehensive framework for Gina’s descent along the trajectory of an unhinged Żuławski character. (The film will play once more at this year’s festival, on Saturday night.)

From the vignettish compositions in Listen Up Philip to the neon-drenched burlesque clubs in Thirst Street, the prolific local cinematographer Sean Price Williams has an impeccable ability to augment his directors’ vision with emotional imagery. With Thirst Street, he balances neon hues and daytime light with fluidity, giving the film’s transitions between day and night a visually rhythmic vibe.

Silver collaborates with C. Mason Wells, who also produced the film, to craft a dense screenplay that deconstructs the many facets of the calamitous downward spiral of a woman. There is a never a coherent understanding as to why Gina’s masochistic tendencies are taking her over, but Silver and Wells avoid establishing that as their focal point. Instead, they try to make their audience sympathize with this woman, who will not stop torturing herself over one specific aspect of her life. As Gina’s obsessive nature devolves into increasingly harmful tendencies for her own well-being, it becomes clear that even if she received what she’s so desperately been chasing, that nothing is ever going to separate her from this life of pandemonium.

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