In Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, Jimmy, a young actor played by Paul Dano vacations at a Swiss resort and prepares for an upcoming role. As he spends his lazy days in the crisp mountain air, and his evenings sipping cocktails in the moonlight, he’s doing what, I suppose, all good actors do; he’s observing the human behavior around him.
He watches two aging buddies, Mick, a director, played by Harvey Keitel, and Fred, a composer played by Michael Caine, on holiday together, and he befriends them, asking them to “be generous” and tell him about their lives. Both understand that their time on earth is limited, but they are handling their old age in different ways; Fred seems indifferent and lethargic, facing each day with a weary resignation. Mick, however, is working on his masterpiece, his “testament”, with a group of young screenwriters with the enthusiasm of a younger man. In an ironic twist, there’s a third rewrite of the script and everybody including the producers are happy, but the writers still can’t come up with a way to end the film, but Mick’s not worrying about it.
Sorrentino is a master at castings his complicated stories, and here, he adds Rachel Weisz as Fred’s daughter and Jane Fonda, in a role that only the bravest of aging actresses would agree to. Keitel, Cane, and Dano are so natural and believable in their roles, and Sorrentino has given humor to their characters, rescuing the film from becoming just one more brooding film searching for the meaning of life.
Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash was not my favorite but most other critics disagree; even I have to admit that Guadagnino’s has assembled a winning cast, with Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Dakota Johnson playing their parts with every inch of creepy weirdness they could pull out of themselves. Ralph Fiennes’ manic portrayal of rock star Marianne Lane’s (Swinton) ex-boyfriend is truly a one of a kind, meaning I’ve never seen him that way, and though Dakota Johnson seems a little too old for a Lolita role, she’s gets the surly teenage attitude down pat.
For me, the psychosexual aspect is meaningless; any pain the characters caused or received seems, well, deserved. And in the end when someone dies, it’s a little like, “Oh my, well, look at that. I guess I’m not surprised.”
Saverio Costanzo’s Hungry Hearts has a New York location, a top Italian actress (Alba Rohrwacher) and an American rising star (Girls star Adam Driver) and makes for an eerily engaging emotional thriller, and one of my favorites at the 2014 Venice Film Festival.
A chance meeting in the bathroom of a New York City Chinese restaurant brings Jude, a young American engineer and Mina, an Italian girl working for the embassy together and a pregnancy seals the deal. But the romantic idea of throwing caution to the wind and marrying someone you know too little about is a bad one for Jude.
There were early signs of Mina’s mental unbalance; her unwillingness to eat during her pregnancy was clearly something beyond ordinary morning sickness. But starving herself is one thing; starving the baby is another. Hungry Hearts will confirm every meat eater’s suspicion that vegans are evil food haters. As Mina’s phobias and idiosyncrasies grow stronger, Jude withdraws from the world in an attempt to focus on his child and protect him; but from what? Is Mina really trying to kill her child?
Hungry Hearts cleverly combines provocative current topics like Indigo Children, veganism for babies and the use of untraditional medicine and makes them seem sinister here, but obsession is the villain and it is a pervasive threat for everyone involved.
Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Best Offer stars Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Donald Sutherland and Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks and includes a gorgeous score is by Ennio Morricone.
Rush plays Virgil Oldman, a rich, famous, talented, and unscrupulous art auctioneer and collector whose elitism combined with OCD tendencies make for a solitary but apparently satisfying existence. His joy in life is his secret stash of portraits, women’s portraits from every era and genre. He’s acquired them dishonestly with no apparent remorse; his narcissism leaves no room for the sympathy he should be feeling for the people he’s cheated in the world in which he is so respected
When he’s contacted by an heiress with some art that she’s interested in selling he’s at first annoyed that she’ll only talk to him on the phone, then intrigued, and finally infatuated with the mystery surrounding her. In Oldman’s eyes, she’s the perfect woman; beautiful, contained, and something to acquire. His relationship with her and two other new friends change his world and open it up in ways he never could have imagined.
Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be The Place boasts an exceptional cast including Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, and Harry Dean Stanton, a fascinating, poignant story, and awesome dialogue but for some reason never got the credit it deserved.
Sean Penn plays Cheyenne a bored and aging rock star that lives off his royalties in a mansion outside Dublin. When he learns that his father is dying he travels to America (on a cruise ship – he’s afraid to fly) but he arrives too late; his father has died. He hadn’t talked to his father in thirty years because years ago he decided that his father didn’t love him. He’s told what his father had been doing with himself all that time, hunting the nazi war criminal that had humiliated him at Auschwitz. With little apparent thought to what he will do if he finds this Nazi, Cheyenne sets out on a road trip across America to finish his father’s work.
The road trip itself is very entertaining, and I would have enjoyed it even if it had been only just a random vacation that Cheyenne was taking with no mission driving him. His interactions with the old lady school teacher, the waitress, and all of the others that he comes across (the ones that aren’t afraid to talk to him with his vintage “The Cure” hair, makeup, goth clothes and black painted toenails) are important to him and to us, even if the reason for the importance is unclear. It may have been more than enough – the story of an estranged son on a Nazi hunt on his father’s behalf, but it almost surely has as much to do with the son’s last-ditch effort for his father’s approval and his own validation. After a few days on his American adventure Cheyenne begins to wake up from his semi-comatose existence and says:
“You have to choose a moment in your life not to be afraid”.
“And have you chosen that moment?”, he’s asked.
“Yes. This one.”