The Unspeakable Act

  • The Unspeakable Act

The Unspeakable Act, which screens this week at the Gene Siskel Film Center (and with writer-director Dan Sallitt in attendance tonight and tomorrow afternoon), is an opaque independent drama about family ties. The title refers to incest, although the movie isn’t concerned with shock value or sex. Drew Hunt notes in this week’s issue, “In the grand tradition of French director Eric Rohmer, The Unspeakable Act is a story in which transgression is considered but never acted upon.” Teenage siblings Jackie and Matthew—bookish, introspective types who sometimes recall J.D. Salinger characters—have an extremely close relationship, but neither seems so impulsive as to push it into the realm of taboo. The movie is a mystery of sorts, inviting viewers to ponder the unspoken motivations behind peculiar behavior. Last week I spoke with Sallitt about his influences, his experience as an employee of the Reader in the early 1980s, and his particular filmmaking methods. Like his other three features, Unspeakable Act was entirely self-financed, with Sallitt doing most of the leg work in preproduction—the intimate nature of his approach, I think, has a direct impact on the artisanal quality of his finished product.