Laurie Simmons b. 1949
The Music of Regret (2006)
Duration 40 minutes

Simmons, best-known for her photographs of miniature rooms populated by dolls and of oversized objects — such as a house, birthday cake, and pistol — balanced on female legs, both human and fake, brings these characters to life in a three-act mini-musical. The film is inspired by three distinct periods of Simmons’s photographic work: vintage hand puppets, ventriloquist dummies and walking objects enact tales of ambition, disappointment, love, loss, and regret. Working with composer Michael Rohaytn ("Personal Velocity") and cameraman Ed Lachman ("The Virgin Suicides" and "Far From Heaven"), Simmons’s puppets come to life in miniature domestic scenes that echo real life.

Act one, “The Green Tie,” takes the form of a puppet show/radio play and recounts a suburban tragedy where one simple decision wreaks havoc on the fragile ecology of everyday life. Simmons uses rubber hand puppets in four scenes to recount a story occurring over several generations and involving two feuding families.

Act two, “The Music of Regret,” is based on a 1994 photograph of the same name and takes its structure from the American musical, which relies on melody and lyric to move the narrative forward. A girl ventriloquist dummy resembling the artist, surrounded by boy dummy suitors, slowly becomes a real woman who wistfully reminisces about regret and its many guises in love.

Act three, “The Audition,” is shot from a producer’s, and audience’s, perspective of an audition for an unspecified part in a dance revue. Gigantic objects with legs dance tango, tap, and ballet, while a pocket watch ticks patiently in the wings for its opportunity to finally show its stuff.

The Music of Regret. 2006. USA. Directed by Laurie Simmons. Executive producers, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Donald Rosenfeld; associate producer, Fabienne Stephan; produced by Salon 94 and Performa 05 with RoseLee Goldberg. Cinematography by Ed Lachman. Music by Michael Rohatyn. Lyrics by Laurie Simmons. Story by Matthew Weinstein. Written by Laurie Simmons and Matthew Weinstein. Lighting by John DeBlau. Alvin Ailey 2 Dancers. Choreography, Helen Pickett. 40 min.