“I believe my soul’s purpose in this lifetime is to be punished by love. To revel in its destruction with graceless naivete. To chase its bountiful highs only to be knocked down and choked out by its unforgiving lows.”
Ontario-based artist Miche Marsz released her short film and accompanying EP "Valentine" today. The film features two young women, Cherry (played by Marsz) and Stacey (played by Marsz’s high school friend, Megan Anderson) as they give into their vices. Valentine is a story of hedonism, of family, of guilt, of reaching out to something that’s just out of your grasp.
We open on Cherry, both in the film and the EP — “Cherry” is the first track we hear and Cherry is the first person we fade in on. The song describes her as “an Aries in the night.” It truly paints a picture of the character using her minutiae. The song tells us she made love with the lights off, watched Martha Stewart, had an absent father and a mother who loves pottery, and got a chest cold every March.
It’s important to note that the first verse of the song reveals something we don’t see until the end of the film: Cherry is dead. “Her body’s buried north of Calgary,” Marsz sings of the “pornographic delight.” This detail completely changes the viewing experience from an emotional standpoint, thus, whether you watch the film or listen to the EP first will impact your overall experience.
The next song is the most heavily featured in the soundtrack, called “She”. In one instance, the song plays as Cherry and Stacey dance together. Though the two are both strippers, the scene in which they dance features them wearing oversized blazers. The outfits and the two women’s vaguely unsettling facial expressions give way to a feeling of unease (think: this Amy Lennox performance at the Olivier Awards). It’s almost sinister in conjunction with the song; it builds a feeling of dread.
The next song is “Coming Back for More”. This is one of my personal favorites on the EP, as it showcases Marsz belting the title line, as if giving in to some unseen pleasure and allowing herself to have “more and more and more”. There is no guilt or unease present, as there was in “She”. The next song, “lust 4 u”, might initially seem to fulfill a similar purpose, but in reality, it is less a song of pleasure and more a song of longing, of something (or someone) missing.
The final song, again both in the movie and on the EP, is “Love Recklessly”. Without spoiling how--the song plays after we watch Cherry die. This specific song is much softer than the others, opening with a piano instrumental and featuring heart-wrenching lyrics like “Maybe I am meant to love differently… Maybe I am meant to spend my life alone.” Marsz’s final song is one of resignation, but not of the hedonistic kind like in “Coming Back for More.” It’s a song in which the singer realizes her flaws and eventually, how to improve them. The EP ends on a note of hope, not just for oneself, but for the human condition.
Admittedly, it took a few watches for the film to grow on me, but the accompanying music, often used in the soundtrack, scratched an itch in my brain that I didn’t even know was there. From the aggressive desire in “Coming Back for More” to the enigmatic descriptions of the titular character in “Cherry,” Miche Marsz delivers a performance that will stun listeners. Her poetic lyricism is impressive, and it transforms the music as the EP continues. Every song on "Valentine" feels so dramatically different, and that’s because they’re all telling different parts of the story.