By Don Simpson | May 12, 2012
Director: Will James Moore
Writer: Will James Moore, Jonathan Case
Starring: Nathan Phillips, Zachary Knighton, Shannon Lucio, Janina Gavankar, Patrick Bauchau, Turk Pipkin, Chad Mathews, Mike Lutz, Meaghan Cooper
Satellite of Love begins at a carnival as Blake (Zachary Knighton), Samuel (Nathan Phillips) and Catherine (Shannon Lucio) trip the lights fantastic. This turns out to be sometime in the past, presumably while the characters were best friends in college. We flash-forward to a period of time after graduation. Samuel has become a musician and bohemian of the world; Catherine and Blake got married, now they run a restaurant (which Austinites will recognize as Justine’s) together. The threesome might have been BFFs in college, but Catherine and Blake have taken a decidedly different path in life than Samuel.
Catherine and Blake are initially stand-offish when Samuel returns home, obviously still sore from Samuel not attending their wedding. As an apology for his absence at their wedding, Samuel invites Blake and Catherine to the idyllic Nadi Vineyards for a week-long vacation. Samuel brings his sexy Spanish friend [with benefits], Michelle (Janina Gavankar), along for the ride. The wines of the Texas Hill Country begin to flow with reckless abandon — as we all know, that can only lead to one thing…
Considering that Catherine is Samuel’s ex-girlfriend, everyone involved should have known that this vacation was a really bad idea. The foursome’s perpetually drunken state of bliss loosens everyone up enough that they begin to reconsider their options; all the while, the brightest satellite in the sky — Venus (which represents love, sex, and fertility) — shines down upon the four protagonists. Catherine and Samuel are forced to face their feelings of past love and regret, while Blake and Michelle turn into the third and fourth wheels of the scenario.
Catherine is essentially faced with a choice between two distinct personalities and lifestyles. Her husband Blake takes life [too?] seriously; he is a successful chef and businessman who is [overly] concerned with their economic well-being. Blake is the poster child of United States capitalism — he always seems stressed and works incessantly. Order and planning are very important to Blake, so he likes the routine that he and Catherine have settled into. And even though women still love him, Blake is a devout monogamist. Samuel, on the other hand, represents the carefree notion of living life without any concerns for money. Let’s just say that the free-spirited Australian has adjusted well to the constant partying of the European lifestyle. Blake describes Samuel’s fun-loving approach to life as “blow and go” and his seemingly anti-capitalist ways are instantly pegged as communist. Samuel oozes passion, while Blake is the personification of security. Despite their differences, Blake and Samuel are best friends — and they love the same woman.
So, by settling down with Blake, did Catherine merely settle? Samuel seems to believe that Catherine is his one true love, but is he Catherine’s? What is more important in relationships: passion or security? When it comes down to it, Blake and Samuel express their love for Catherine differently. Catherine will just need to decide which one suits her better. Blake and Samuel also begin to contemplate the choices in front of them — Samuel’s eyes begin to wander towards Michelle, while Samuel contemplates the possibility of settling down with Catherine. In other words, the four protagonists are stuck in post-collegiate limbo, uncertain if they have made the right decisions thus far and confused about what to do next.
Eric Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse (1967) serves as a purposeful point of reference for writer-director Will James Moore’s Satellite of Love — not only does Moore cast the lead actor of La Collectionneuse (Patrick Bauchau) as Samuel’s eccentric friend, but Moore even mimics the tranquil Mediterranean atmosphere of La Collectionneuse by setting Satellite of Love in the vineyards of the Texas Hill Country. But while the fourth of Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales functions as a sharp criticism of the lack of morality in the youth of the 1960s, Moore allows his characters to criticize each other and refrains from stamping any sort of directorial judgment on them. The script lives up to the classic intellectualism of Rohmer without ever feeling too stilted or forced; while visually Satellite of Love maintains the vibrancy of the French New Wave, particularly with its impeccably crafted mise-en-scène. Satellite of Love is absolutely gorgeous, from the oh-so-beautiful cast to Steve Acevedo’s masterful cinematography. (I am holding out hope that Satellite of Love will screen theatrically somewhere in Austin.) Rohmer would probably be very proud that he inspired Moore’s film.
Of course, Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” (from Transformer) is another obvious reference; a fitting one at that, since the song is about the inherent jealousy of contemplating an unfaithful girlfriend…
Check out our interview with Will Moore, Jonathan Case, Shannon Lucio and Zachary Knighton from the 2012 Austin Film Festival.