Outsider Art

The Caveman's Valentine writes a love letter to the iconoclast

Lemmons is so allergic to easy conclusions that she'd probably bristle at this notion, yet it seems that, in his paranoid hypersensitivity, Romulus is, on a metaphorical level, an Everyman, and only an outsider to the extent that most people feel like interlopers in society. Lemmons's use of video suggests the ways in which people's personal visions--even our experiences of time, sound, and movement--are distorted by constant exposure to the mass media. Romulus's effort to distinguish his own inner voice amid internal static--a struggle that every person must join with increasing focus, as the media shape our daily perceptions--gradually leads him to the truth.

It must be said that Eve's Bayou had a subtle confidence and a clarity of purpose that The Caveman's Valentine lacks. Perhaps that's because the new film's culture--the culture of Romulus's mind--is entirely imaginative: It's harder to sculpt reality from the void than from actual history. Still, the movie's wacked-out cadences certainly have their charms. Interestingly, the message is not much different, in the end, from that of Eve's Bayou: Trust yourself. The film never offers a real verdict on which of Romulus's visions and voices are false. For all we know, there really is some bastard trying to control the man's mind--and our own.

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