With Jay-Z as one of its executive producers, you already know that this movie will be a lyrical triumph; however, filmmaker Terence Nance has gone one better with his big screen debut. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is a true work of art through and through.
Dream Hampton and Wyatt Cenac also executive produce this beautiful film, but the project is an obvious long-time labor of love for Nance, who has fearlessly arranged his most private feelings and personal love stories into a smorgasbord of poetry, music, and visual art for consumption by creative types, romantics, and anyone who enjoys feeling over linear storytelling.
The film, set against a gorgeously gritty New York City backdrop, follows Terence through multiple romances over a span of years, always returning to one lovely enigma of a woman (Namik Minter), and revisiting a certain moment in which this woman cancels on Terence for the evening. The structure of this piece is much like the structure of love: a postmodern labyrinth that requires some instruction from the narrator to follow–but that is part of the fun.
The narrator is a Saul Williams-style liquid-leather voice that elucidates Terence’s every thought as we see footage (real and recreated) of the events that unfold again and again between Terence and Namik, each time with more introspection from Terence, leading to that bitter crucial moment. “Maybe you are feeling the pain that lies in the void between expectations and reality,” the voice intones.
When we aren’t watching the flesh-and-blood retelling of the story, the visual portion of the film is comprised of Terence’s own artwork. There are sketches that come to life, meandering colors floating on filmstrips, wood sculpture stop-motion animation. This sounds hard to follow, but what results is a moving and authentic (yet simultaneously fantastic) love story. Parts of the film are free flowing; other times, it feels–in the best way–like an instructional video, teaching “faux ambivalent” young lovers how to be forthcoming with their feelings.
When love doesn’t pan out, it is human nature to wonder why, but many people cower from confronting their own truths. Terence, in Oversimplification, does the opposite, and it is fascinating to see what he has learned by dissecting each romantic move he has made and analyzing his motives. “You are meditative and masochistic in a way that facilitates your creative functionality,” his narrator says. “You like the poetics of sad songs more. You are, shall we say, more enamored with the bad news.”
Overall, the visceral reaction this film inspires is far more powerful than even the best rom-com, and it is at times just as funny. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is showing at the Downtown Independent until May 23, with a national release to follow.
Watch the trailer here.