Mark L. Feinsod, the New York filmmaker whose short films “A Sense of Entitlement” (2000) and “After an Autumn Day That Felt Like Summer” (2003) detailed privileged twentysomethings squandering their lives on self-absorption, has crafted a bold and disturbing new short film called “Virginal Young Blondes.” The eponymous ladies don’t make an appearance in this 16-minute short, which is one of the many enigmatic puzzles of this challenging endeavor.
Young John O’Hara is unemployed and not doing too much to actively hunt out work. His father, at wit’s end on a telephone call, is upset that John is not being more aggressive in the employment hunt – but the elder O’Hara reluctantly agrees to send his son a check (obviously not for the first time).
John leaves his claustrophobic apartment for a cafe, and he is immediately eyed by a silky blonde who mistakes him for a trust fund baby. She’s Sofia and her specialty (according to her crimson business card) is private striptease and massage. John, intrigued by Sofia, covers the cost of her drink even though his wallet is running low on cash.
John and Sofia stop the window of a store which John blandly announces is “the most expensive chocolate shop in the world.” He buys them two small cakes, which comes to a whopping $42.50. The store’s clerk goes through elaborate lengths to prepare them, even taping them to the bottom of an ornate gift box.
John and Sofia wind up on the Brooklyn Bridge. After sharing a joint, Sofia lets loose on her story: she dropped out of high school and shacked up with a drug dealer who was later killed by rival thugs. She now supports herself with her striptease and massage work, with a bit of dominatrix posing thrown in for those seeking a real tough broad. She abruptly leaves John for another appointment. John, stoned and alone, opens the gift box and begins to eat the cakes.
“Virginal Young Blondes” is a tight work where everything is never what it seems. John, played by Andy Waldschmidt, is handsome and well-dressed in the best preppie tradition – but he’s basically an empty vessel, lacking the passion to secure anything for himself. He literally waits for things to happen to him â€“ his detached reaction to Sofia’s come-on suggests she is not the first woman to throw herself at him. Yet he clearly has nothing to offer: he is unable to match Sofia’s strange tale of drug trafficking among the youth of the tony East Coast elite except to recall where he went to college.
Sofia is more puzzling. She literally seems like two women cohabiting the same body – and in the film, she literally is, with Melissa Silver as the physical Sofia and Marie-Line Grinda dubbing in her lines. She has an ice queen elegance, but her life story is messy and stained with criminal activity culminating in her ex-boyfriend’s murder and her rape by the killers. Her interest in John is strictly financial, and when he embraces her but suddenly retracts his grasp she tells him it is all right, but it is obvious she does not want to encourage emotional attachment.
Feinsod wears nearly every hat in this film: director, producer, writer, camera and editing. Benson Sebastian is credited for “additional obnoxiously loud sound effects” and his work is wonderful – the honks, sirens, drone and whistles of a typical New York day are wonderfully clear in the soundtrack background. The special Thanks listing in the closing credits includes mention of Dirk Bogarde, Julie Christie and John Schlesinger – and one can ponder how Feinsod would helm a remake of that trio’s 1965 classic “Darling.” If “Virginal Young Blondes” is any indication, he is the right man for that job.