In a way, there is nothing concrete to find within the framework of Terrence Nance’s freefalling kaleidoscopic take on the inner workings of the (often stupid) male brain. Told in flurry of live action, hand drawn animation and stop motion animation, the film is a half art piece/half documentary soap bubble of complexities, encapsulating the emotions and, at times, self-sabotage a young man of a certain lovesick, melancholy demeanor goes through, or as is the case, puts himself through. In that way, though, it’s possibly the most intuitive, perceptive and maybe even informative film about the inner workings the male brain (especially the pettiness and unintentional selfishness that hold us back).
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (produced by Jay Z and Wyatt Cenac) is built around the foundation of a short film called How Would You Feel which Nance made to about a young lady (Namik Minter) that he liked, who maybe maybe liked him too. It’s a love letter of sorts, an attempt to add enough perspective to his feelings as to make her suitably impressed with their size and scope. The self-made trap is his own perspective though. She is not impressed with his film. It makes her uncomfortable, especially that he’s shown it to people. It’s not how she sees their relationship, which was from a completely different perspective, from different eyes, with different wants and needs. To him, she only existed within his context, as the focal point of his desire. To her, she exists within her own context, with her own desires. It’s hard to overcome that. Nance moves on and flirts with the idea of loving others as he travels around the world (Paris, NY, South Africa) while continuing to work on the film, but always comes back to Minter, who at times may or may not actually reciprocate his feelings. The timeline becomes fuzzy at a certain point and it’s hard to find the line where documentary ends and the art project begins, or whether maybe the whole thing is an art project. But if it is, if it’s not half documentary, I don’t want to know.
It’s got to be said, of course, that not everyone would care to see a film about why the male brain makes males do the unquestionably strange things we do. I can only say that the film hit me square in the chest with a weight equivalent to a sack full of bowling balls and left me staring dumbly in the dark at the TV after it concluded. In a way, maybe in a completely unintentional way, it exposes flaws in thought that most, if not all, males are guilty of. It’s emotional secret-telling in the same way Girls is emotional secret-telling. Nance doesn’t cut the emotion with baby laxatives and corn starch here; it’s pure, and that makes it sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes entertaining, sometimes maddening and sometimes enlightening.