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Originally published Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 3:00 PM

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‘An Oversimplification of Her Beauty’ is not simple but good

Terence Nance’s “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” is an esoteric film that feels like a cross between “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “She’s Gotta Have it.” Backed by Jay-Z, it deserves to be seen.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 3.5 stars

‘An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,’ with Terence Nance, Alisa Becher, Jc Cain, Dexter Jones. Directed by Nance. 93 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.

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Written, directed by and starring Terence Nance, a young man who has made some movies but mostly music and music videos, “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” is one of the more unusual movies you’ll see this year — and maybe in your life.

It is an emotionally exhausting but ultimately rewarding kaleidoscope of video, animation, words and music — and feelings on top of feelings on top of feelings. It’s pretty much the perfect young-person art film to see on a date.

Toggling in and out of Nance’s 2010 film “How Does It Feel?,” about a lovesick young man living and loving in New York City (Nance, basically), it’s a movie about a movie, about psychology and love. At its best, it’s meta-genius — a cross between “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “She’s Gotta Have It.”

At its worst, the film is fatiguing navel-gazing. Take this dialogue, spoken aloud: “One’s identity is most often found in the objectifying eye of the beholder, even if one finds oneself beholding itself.”


But the plot moves like improvised music, and sucks you in. It’s a very musical film, warm and undulating, featuring original songs from Los Angeles fusion hip-hop producer Flying Lotus. Nance creates coherence and intelligibility by injecting his infectious personality and considerable craft.

The visual art on screen corresponds to the words Nance’s two competing narrators are saying (and they are saying a lot, constantly talking), dazzling with a combination of video and animation. The animated parts are either handmade by Nance (he shot some scenes and then painted on the frames) or feel that way (the software TVPaint has that effect).

A superstar team of executive producers raise the profile of this film: Jay-Z, dream hampton and Wyatt Cenac. And that’s good, since something so idiosyncratic needs a marketing push to make it into theaters. For his part, Nance makes the complicated story sing and creates a messy masterwork. He’s a talent the world needs to know about.

Andrew Matson:

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