Maxi Cohen was selected to direct the sin of Anger as part of the Seven Women Seven Sins film series. She began by putting an advertisement in The Village Voice newspaper in New York City reading, “What makes you angry?” Along with fellow filmmaker Joel Gold, she recorded the conversations with the people who replied to the ad. As a result, she captured human emotion at its core, as she takes the viewer on an emotional ride through rage and sorrow. During the twenty minutes of the film, we are witness to a number of individuals’ true emotions and different degrees and manifestations of anger.
After viewing Anger for the first time, one is left in a state of shock. From the group of twenty year olds’ hatred of their neighbors to a former New York City police officer who now despises the city he had sworn to serve, Cohen has captured each person’s anger in its most raw form. After seeing these characters’ hatred, we are presented with a person who is enraged that she must decide whether to live as a woman or as a man. We begin to imagine what it must be like to live as this person does, and by the time she begins to cry hysterically after revealing that she is living with her sister and her daughter in a miniscule apartment with nothing to call her own, we cannot avoid being moved by this wellspring of human emotion. This is the greatest virtue of Cohen’s filmmaking: the way she can strike your heart with the purity of this anger, and then follow it with a story about a man whose anger towards his mother’s reaction to his sexual curiosity inspired an alternative lifestyle that filled a great void in his life. With each story that is revealed, we are given a different look at anger and the way people express it. From raising their voices to shoving it deep down inside, people deal with anger in many different ways.
The finale of the film presents anger in yet another mutation. Here, we finally get a look at the most familiar incarnation of anger: an arguing couple. The couple’s back and forth verbal lashings result in complete and utter disgust for each other. It shows us that anger can be stirred up instantaneously and can overpower all other emotions within us just as it consumes the subjects of the film.
Above all else, content is the core of Cohen’s work. Her filmmaking is subdued to the point that we, as the audience, are completely absorbed in the stories told by her subjects. The editing effortlessly strings each story together so that they become a magnificent whole. The subjects are ordered in such a way that emotion is pulled out of us and into us. The camera work, done here by Joel Gold, is exactly what it needs to be – light zooms and tight shots of faces that never miss the physical subtleties of emotion. This is filmmaking and video art at its finest. With the simple use of a newspaper advertisement and a camera, Cohen has created a moving film that will forever change one’s views on the complexities of anger, and indeed all the extremes of human emotion.
Anger was awarded Best Short Film at the Montreal Festival of New Cinema, the Award of Special Distinction in Tokyo and the Special Jury Award at the San Francisco Film Festival.
Clifford Shoemaker, 2003