“Classical Period,” the second and (at barely more than an hour) longest feature from the offbeat filmmaker Ted Fendt (“Short Stay”), is technically in English, but it might as well be in liberal-arts-speak. Characters toss off lines like “I’ve never read the Borges book this quote is from” and “It’s actually the most comprehensive book about the freeway revolt in Philadelphia that I’ve read.” Such insights and humblebrags are the bulk of the dialogue. The title evokes the musical era that preceded Romanticism, and this highly original movie has been denatured of romance or even obvious dramatic incident.
The film is organized around a group that meets to discuss “The Divine Comedy.” The most enthusiastic participant is Cal (Calvin Engime), who speaks authoritatively on the original Italian and just about everything else. (In the wittiest set piece, a lengthy single take, he delivers a comically off-the-cuff history of the English Reformation martyr Edmund Campion.)
“Classical Period” is often very funny, but it’s also poignant, imagining a milieu — part heaven, part purgatory — in which daily lives can be devoted to pondering the aggregated wisdom of the past. There are also hints of a plot, as the seasons progress and Evelyn (Evelyn Emile), another member of the group, expresses irritation at Cal’s smugness.
Fendt finds beauty in delicately shaded shots of reading and translating. (The movie was shot on 16-millmeter, and the texture — itself the stuff of libraries and archives — seems essential to the experience.) In looking to the past, “Classical Period” finds something new.
2.04GB | 1 h 1 min | 1920×1080 | mkv