Notes on an Appearance
Panorama | Vanguard
David (Bingham Bryant), hired by his doctoral-student friend Todd (Keith Poulson) as a research assistant for a book Todd is writing about a controversial right-wing philosopher, disappears, leaving behind a cache of letters, postcards and maps… Ricky D’Ambrose’s Brooklyn-set, sui generis mystery uses Todd’s search for his friend to present a mordant and slightly paranoid view of a city in thrall to its history and signposted by the classical establishments inhabited by intellectuals past and present—bookshops, cafés, walk-up-lined leafy streets. But everything is just a little off-kilter here: D’Ambrose eschews any use of smart phones or computers, replacing them with the aforementioned postcards, maps and letters that illuminate—or obscure—David’s, and, by extension, Todd’s, existence. Like another more famous film that has an unexplained disappearance at its core—Antonioni’s L’avventura—D’Ambrose has bigger fish to fry than just solving a mystery: he takes great formal care in presenting a skewed vision of the way smart, young people live now.
"Above all, Notes on an Appearance (even the title is scintillatingly ironic) reflects a conflict-riddled, vigorously self-deluding intellectual realm where the ideal, grand-scale stakes bear the weight of immediate passion and the local, personal stakes remain disturbingly, bewilderingly remote. But D’Ambrose’s ardent intellectualism is a sublime comedic mask. For all his gleeful fabrication of a realm of cultural aspirations and achievements, his subject is the mysteries that elude dialectics and disputations, the ones that animate the artistic, aesthetic impulse that his movie both exalts and embodies."—Richard Brody, New Yorker