“Malcolm and Mary” recalls the observation of Jorge Luis Borges that, instead of writing novels, he preferred to imagine a novel already written and then criticized it.
In the first minutes it happens – Malcolm, a young black director, returns from the premiere of his film and comments on its reception with bitter sarcasm. He refers to critics who congratulated him after the session, praising the way he showed the status of blacks in the United States, etc.
There is nothing like that, he says. Why do they believe that a negro can only speak as a negro? Or why do they believe that a negro is not a man like any other and cannot speak in this way?
At the same time, the writer, and the viewer, this attempt to control the film, but at the same time to welcome the film, already gives an idea of the almost infinite narrowness of our protagonist. The model, Mary, appears in the person of his wife. She does not seem at all pleased that Malcolm used her personal story, at least in large part, but she used another actress at the time.
The exchange of charges and the drama of couples begin. These endless discussions, which revolve around everything and nothing. Screenwriter Sam Levinson’s dialogues and monologues are smart enough to leave the audience buzzing. In line with Tennessee Williams and other United States playwrights.
For Sam Levinson as director, the impressions are mixed. The first scene, crossing the deprecated Malcolm room and the second room of the mansion in which they now live, comes and goes, as well as a camera outside the house that makes you think of a stylistic stylist, namely a In the search for style that runs out on its own.
Black and white corroborate this idea. Not long shots. These are wanted with movement and reflection of the characters without having to cut their rhythm without changing anything. So, perhaps, not that stylist: practical, first.
Thus the impression of the viewer changes in front of the film. Facing Mary’s arguments, it is easy to see how comfortable the Narcissistic Malcolm is, she can’t get out of herself, ultimately a leech. But when Mary reveals herself with words and gestures, well, maybe she has a reason: she sabotages herself and so on.
On some levels, beauty and effectiveness are matched. Most of the time, light does not come from behind, as in some recent black and white (“Munk”, “Filling Casablanca”). However, Malcolm claims against critics (roughly speaking: why he would be the “new Spike Lee”, but never the “new William Wyler” for the film).
“Malcom and Mary” has an exaggeration that affects Wyler’s contemporaries in the film, but later leaves them oblivious. Time will tell if it resists. But Levinson is a filmmaker, especially since the film does not end in circular duet fights with its brutality and failures.
The rhythm and frequency Mary repeats to the expression: “I have a master” with Malcolm (above all) seems central.
But at this point the viewer is already confronted with another question that the film makes, perhaps the most interesting: after all, what is the love between two people?
Talking of two people, the film has two actors – John David Washington and – Zendaya Mahan and well directed. Not only with words, but also by gestures, making it completely secondary that the scene has only two actors.
Finally: This is yet another example of how Netflix favors distributing medium (or small) movies, unlike Amazon, for example, where it seems the world is always coming down with special effects.
Malcolm and mary
Where: Available on Netflix
Classification: 14 years
Eleanco: Zendaya e John David Washington
Production: USA, 2021
Director: Sam Levino