The Air I Breathe
Directed by Jieho Lee (R)
Four strangers living in Mexico City are all serendipitously connected.
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Suffocated by Hollywood conventions and film-school pretentiousness, The Air I Breathe desperately needs oxygen, said Gene Seymour in Newsday. The film finds inspiration in an ancient Chinese proverb, which breaks down life into four pillars: happiness, pleasure, sorrow, and love. Director Jieho Lee weaves his narrative around four characters named after these emotions whose lives eventually intertwine. For his feature-film debut, Lee boldly attempts the “subgenre of we’re-all-connected narrative strands.” Robert Altman, in his Short Cuts, was perhaps the only filmmaker agile enough to pull off such serendipitous storytelling. Lee lacks the skill to carry out the task, said S. James Snyder in The New York Sun. His characters “exist more as metaphors than human beings.” Even within their separate stories, he jerks around the audience’s expectations. Forest Whitaker, as “happiness,” is anything but chipper. Brendan Fraser, as “pleasure,” finds no enjoyment in life. Lee wrangled quality actors, but his film could easily be called “Four Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” as that actor plays the character of “love,” who culminates this game of connect-the-dots. Lee’s cerebral conceits are at once “half-baked” and “too-cooked,” said Ella Taylor in The Village Voice. The director wants to enlighten his audience, but the supposed conflict of “destiny versus hand-wringing is Philosophy 101.”
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