Full Title: JIMMY P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian. And so it is, doubtless to the frustration of anyone expecting a more conventional, plot-driven recovery story. French director Arnaud Desplechin, working comfortably in his second English-language pic, doesn’t spell everything out detailing the case of a WWII Native American vet (Benicio Del Toro) crippled by debilitating episodes of blindness & migraines. Sent to a special clinic in Topeka, Kansas run by Karl Menninger (yes, that Menninger), the staff doctors are unable to diagnose the cause and send to New York for Mathieu Amalric, an uncertified French psychiatrist (well, he tells everyone he’s from France) with a bent for analysis using an anthropological lens. If the wounds aren’t physical, and only triggered, not induced by war memories, might the underlying cause be cultural or genetic? Playing out in opaque, yet fascinating moments of partial revelation, this exceptionally well-acted piece is taken largely from session notes. (Desplechin adds a pleasant, if fictional, romance for Amalric & the visiting Gina McKee for the sake of variety and to help fill in the doctor’s backstory.) With a deep-textured palette punching up period detail (none of that faded photograph crap), the film is often startlingly convincing even if the a la carte narrative choices, which exclude as much as they include, won’t be statisfying to all.
DOUBLE-BILL: Desplechin is at his best in A CHRISTMAS TALE/’08 with a big all-star French cast, including Amalric, a Desplechin regular.