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Love Makes the Center of the World Go Round

Love Etc. (2011)


In the era of "Jersey Shore," "Super Size Me" and "Kate Plus 8," there is nothing particularly unique about a film that follows its subjects for a year of their lives. Moreover, to focus such a film on the idea of romance seems like well-worn territory. And yet Jill Andresevic's feature debut "Love Etc." keeps the format fresh, light and surprisingly meaningful. The documentary — which chronicles the ups and downs of five relationships — accomplishes the feat of communicating something very real and honest about love while never taking itself too seriously.

To begin with, "Love Etc." is first and foremost about New Yorkers. The cast is far too white to represent the racial and ethnic diversity of a city like New York, but there is still enough of a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations and strong personalities to keep the film from feeling overly homogeneous. As one might expect, the most moving and heartfelt story line concerns an elderly couple from Canarsie: Albert Mazur is a musician deeply in love with Marion, his wife of 48 years who is slipping into the depths of dementia. Conversely, the teenage lovers from SoHo, Gabriel Amati and Danielle Short, are the most cringe-inducing pair to watch. (This is not their fault. I remember how I sounded at their age; and I am grateful that there were no video cameras around to capture it.)

Given that some of the participants are at the beginning of their relationships with both love and life, it is interesting to see how their maturity level affects their comfort as subjects of a documentary. Mr. Mazur speaks openly and frankly about how Marion's failing health has affected their relationship. He takes off his clothes to change into pajamas and tucks his wife into bed. He unabashedly calls local businesses and recording studios in the hopes that someone will show interest in his original music. The high schoolers, though, are much more guarded with their behavior — more affected and certainly more self-conscious. When Mr. Amati kisses Ms. Short good night, his lips land on her cheek but his eyes are on the camera.

As for the other subjects of the film, they all land somewhere in between puppy love and the golden years. Chitra Siwlal and Mahendra Jaipersaud are an Indo-Guyanese couple on a rocky path through their early stages of marriage. Scott Ellis is a single gay theater producer who is about to become the father of twins. And lastly, Ethan Teicher is a handsome yet slightly hostile construction worker who is divorced with two children. Ms. Andresevic allows us to witness the foibles, quirks and humor of her characters, but smartly pulls back before allowing them to turn into parodies of themselves. And lest we forget where we are, these slices of life are interspersed with shots of everyday New York from Jamaica to SoHo to Harlem to Coney Island. The interludes, backed by a sweet and lush score, are so pleasurable that it feels as though the filmmaker would prefer to forget the lovelorn altogether and instead make the entire film a montage of New York City street scenes.

"Love Etc." does not purport to be a serious study on monogamy, sociology or the institute of marriage. There are no hyper-dramatic moments and no twist endings. It is straight-forward, economical and stylish — a pocket-size documentary that still bursts with endless love for New York City and its inhabitants.


Opens on July 1 in Manhattan.

Directed by Jill Andresevic; director of photography, Luke Geissbuhler; edited by Alex Israel and Mary Manhardt; music by Rob Simonsen; produced by Ms. Andresevic, Jeffrey Stewart and Chiemi Karasawa; released by Paladin. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. This film is not rated.


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