Art= (love) 2 is the first movie by Mumtaz Hussain who is a Pakistani American film maker and artist. His first feature length work received an Award from Switzerland and Platinum Reel award from Nevada Film Festival.
Dean D’Agostino (Nate Dushku) sits alone in his apartment in New York; disheveled and unkempt, his eyes carrying purple bags, his lips cracked and his hair greasy. Yet the first voice on screen is Isabella Rossi’s (Lindsay Goranson) on the phones answering machine. The thing to note from the opening scene is that while Dean is alive and mobile, it is a dead girl’s voice that we hear first, speaking for them both. Dean is the boyfriend of the late Isabella Rossi, a student studying mathematics, who allegedly committed suicide not too long ago.
The story involves a man desperately and masochistically in love with a woman who is now dead. A woman who he is still obsessed with as he intensely refers to her as his ‘Messiah’, while her voice is heard speaking to him and ordering him to ‘paint’ and ‘find my cross’. So begins the quest to unravel his subconscious which is riddled with cues from Isabella. Alongside actual sentences she guides Dean to the point where the Chrysler and EmpireState buildings are aligned and the number 21. In an attempt to unveil her character further the very brilliantly played role of Suzanna Mansch (Darby Lynn Totten) is needed to direct Dean towards a psychiatrist that he has something in common with. The idea is that art and mathematics are not only compatible but vital components that enhance the others existence and this concept is symbolic of Dean the artist and Isabella the mathematician.
Though the person with most time on screen is indeed Dean D’Agostino there is some deliberate doubt presented as to who the real protagonist of the story is. Lindsay Goranson (Isabella Rossi) is shown and heard solely through people’s memories of her. Her story is not told chronologically and much like human memory tends to not be tied to space and time. She is described by other characters in the movie as ‘spellbinding’, ‘crazy’, ‘depressed’, ‘curiously magnetic’ and ‘brilliant’. Thus it is only fitting that her character dominates the entire plot.
On that note, the movie as a whole is blatantly feminist. The power is all in the woman, as she herself is fully aware of as well, Deans entire purpose is shown to be about Isabella. Then there are scenes that are animated and done with some notability, the clip of the fruit decaying and paint splashing on canvas in particular. The nondiegetic music however did no favours for the movie and in fact took away from the credible and somber tone that the work was trying to achieve. Mumtaz Hussain does a few things that are deliberately textbook arty, such as breaking the third wall with direct eye contact but it seems to have been done reluctantly, like he knew it was a cliché and almost stopped. There are also times that I felt that he lacked faith in his potential audience and had to dumb the movie down with some consideration. The idea over all is good and has its moments. One was, at points reminded of Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, with the similar brilliant but mad mathematician, the subconscious messages and the process of trying to defeat a mental illness without medication. There is also a tint of Sufism in the character of Isabella especially at the pinnacle of her realizations.
As his first film Mumtaz Hussain as the co-writer and director has done some wonderful things with the film. The computer graphics, the paintings and the plot all complemented each other in a way only an artist would know how. All three have worked well together to ultimately lead to the climatic moral, spiritual and rational triumph of the power of art, mathematics and love.