The Gene Siskel Film Center is currently running their 17th Annual European Union Film Festival through the month of March. Please see their website for screenings and showtimes.
A slug moves through the opening shot of Joaquim Pinto’s What Now? Remind Me. It’s a hypnotic image, where its slimy body is the focal point of the frame until it slowly escapes. Images of insects populate much of What Now? Remind Me. From the image of a wasp extracting a piece of a hamburger patty to the slow death of a bee on its back, nature intrudes with force throughout the picture. The film is a documentary, a travelogue, a personal diary, and a will for Joaquim Pinto. A former sound editor diagnosed with Hepatitis C and HIV, Pinto records his life as he contends with the mind-altering and physically decaying aspects of his treatment, along with the problems that arise in his relationships and livelihood as a farmhand.
Pinto is quick to note that every disease has its own history. What Now? Remind Me reflects on Pinto’s time and history. Noting a limitation in what text can produce, Pinto opts to film his everyday activities. From his neurological decay to simply documenting his time with his dogs, the film’s narrow scope is sure to cover every particular of Pinto’s life. Both exhaustive and exhausting, there’s something self-indulgent about What Now? Remind Me that hinders its prospective impact. With Pinto so ready to document everything from his physical collapse to even having sex, the film is almost too inherently personal and artistically inert to completely embrace. While there are some striking images that shows Pinto’s obvious visual acuity and propensity for capturing life’s sounds (not particularly surprising given his background), the picture’s utilization of stagnant shots as Pinto addresses the camera is a tool dispatched too often. And at a bloated 164 minutes, the picture’s findings become disappointingly rote.
What Now? Remind Me is a difficult film to write off, in large part because Pinto is such a fascinating subject. From working with numerous art-house filmmakers to contending with the death of friends and family upon the onset of the AIDS crisis, Pinto establishes a rich historical and personal context for his film. There’s a clear sense of historical duty to placing Pinto’s plights with that of a broader social movement. The picture is an odd combination of David France’s How to Survive a Plague and Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, in that Pinto relies on historical narrative to offer context for his disease (akin to France’s work) yet engrained in rich personal context that makes it wholly his own (akin to Polley’s effort). It amounts to a nuanced picture and certainly one of contention - my screening saw numerous walk outs and chatter regarding the picture’s bloated length. It’s problematic, lacking the historical and personal nuance that France and Polley brought to their aforementioned pictures, but the odd conglomeration of the two makes What Now? Remind Me at the very least a curio-piece.