BABY, IT'S YOU (1998 POV Documentary)
The title has been previously used in a fiction feature (1983), the story of an inter-faith romance. It was the second movie written as well as directed by John Sayles, that superb independent film-maker. Do not confuse it with the current film that opens the 11th season (1998) of the P.O.V. (Point Of View) documentary series airing on PBS.
The 1998 "Baby," by prize-winning film-maker Anne Makepeace, is an autobiographical slice of life and time. Centering around Ms.Makepeace and her Canadian-born husband, writer Peter Behrens, it includes a "supporting cast" of their non-mainstream (when not downright weird by conventional standards) baby-boomer siblings.
Having reached their late forties the childless couple decide to have a baby. Says Anne : "At my age it's really hard to get pregnant the fun way," so the two decide to undergo modern fertility procedures. These become a medical micro-Odyssey involving body, mind and feelings. I will not reveal what actually happens (or does not ) since the film is, in its way, a suspense story of private lives made public. There is a built-in element of voyeurism as the filmed events proceeds, branches out into the families and friends of Anne and Peter, provides a number of revelations.
To various degrees, the latter involve Anne's brother Douglas who, in Utah, is planning to embark on polygamy and have 20 kids; Doug's patriarchically bearded neighbor who has seven wives; Anne's hippie-ishly bearded other brother Roger, a semi-recluse in Appalachian mountains with his company of goats; uncles and aunts from prim New England; Peter's artist sister Mary whose quandary parallels that of Anne in her first days in college; Peter's sister Anne in Canada, and her lover Tanya as they adopt a baby.
Well shot by Uta Briesewicz, the film follows chronologically and step-by-step the efforts, dashed hopes and new hopes of the potential parents,shows a solid marriage, Anna's reflections on her past, especially her upbringing.
In a sense, she, as the documentary's prime maker, is stalking her own self, but with naturalness and no trace of play-acting, setting up situations or staging anything.
Andy Warhol's dictum that sooner or later everyone will have fifteen minutes of fame is debatable. What is unarguable however, is that, as "Baby" proves, the lives of all human beings contain at least one movie subject.
It touches on family relationships, marriage, abortion, unexpected drama, changing or new standards and mores. "To breed or not to breed? That is the question." The belated decision to beget in mid-life, while not elaborated upon, is obviously related speaks to the colossal growth (and siren song) of professional women, to the race for success and financial security, to the business and busy-ness of this waning century.
Other problems of Anne and her brethren can be laid on the doorstep of their Yankee parents whose relations with their children were hardly confidential, and for whom any mention of sex was inconceivable.
It's all there, both in text and sub-text, both in the banality of life and its unconventionalities. To what extent viewers will be touched or enlightened is an open question. The persons shown, including the offbeat types, have no special interest per se. But the dilemmas of the ever-increasing number of women who, unlike their parents and their parents' parents, now decide to have a career first, then to try to conceiveas their hair grows gray, are major problems of industrialized nations in the last decades. Over and above discussions and arguments, it is good that such such concerns be made vivid by the visual media.
" Le mauvais gout mene au crime" (Stendhal)
Edwin Jahiel's movie reviews are at edwinjahiel.com