CONTENTUS takes its cue from the meanings of the (latin) word – to strain with exertion, to hold together; in which three parallel stories intersect in a contemporary allegory of labor, loneliness, prejudice, power and place. Connected by isolation, everyday cruelties, unheard stories and underrepresented characters straddle the metaphoric and the real – an unseen Asian escort’s clientele of Caucasian sex tourists blur into one another, domestic tensions and violence of a professional man and his young live-in immigrant lover, and an encounter between a young banker and his older homeless doppelgänger in a city meridian (populated by High Finance workers in the day and the homeless at night).

The first narrative feature from writer/director Stephen Chen, CONTENTUS builds on his ideas on a cinema of attention (vs distraction) and blends metaphor and man through the naming and speech of the characters. Like its excluded stories and characters, the film inhabits a No Man’s Land between Hollywood and Art House tropes; straddling the nether boundary between narrative and experimental – a No Man’s Land with no heroes, no resolutions, no romanticized sentiments.

Eschewing contemporary conventions of narrative grammar, middle-aged and social crises intersect in the stories set respectively in a room, a condo, a meridian of a city where queer becomes allegory, and is de-eroticized; while an all-male cast subverts conventional relationship dynamics in the portrayals of power and vulnerability. Through rejecting the “wasted” shots in contemporary cinematography (redundant close ups, coverage angles, etc.) and utilizing music as a thematic counterpoint (vs. mood or editing device), CONTENTUS infuses cinema with Brechtian influences – in use of allegory, and where form itself is made conscious and interrogated (itself a metaphor for awakening the consciousness of people).

Moored by convention,
living in Blissed existence
of Indifference

CONTENTUS bookends STILLE STADT against the proforma tyranny of Hollywood narrative and realist tropes as well as the twee tendencies of indie films; to explore unspoken stories, alternative representations and the power of allegory. Filmed in long unbroken takes using only available light, CONTENTUS eschews the contemporary propensity of coverage over character, style over substance, and construction of protagonists; to subvert the symbols and mythos of contemporary society.

Brendan O’ Gorman as Mark/Matthew David Phillips as James
Sammy Allouba as Asim Andrew Kines as Lazarus
Trevor Ketcheson as Alexander Peter Mazzucco as Sam
Andrew Bee as Luke/Paul John Marcucci as Dan
Jeffrey Leonard as John/Peter  


dissonance productions
Started by trans-discplinary art-ivist Stephen Chen to consolidate his recent work; as well as facilitate collaboration with others. Stephen’s oeuvre is often allegorical as well as simultaneously deconstruct and hybridize the very forms he works in. Disdaining academic and esoteric expressions, as well as institutional conventions and practices, Stephen explores complex ideas and issues immanent in his works through experiments in form and technique.

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