Directed by Paolo Sorrentino Italy/Switzerland/France/ UK Cert 15 Duration 2hrs 4mins
Michael Caine as Fred Ballinger Harvey Keitel as Mick Boyle
Rachel Weisz as Lena Ballinger Paul Dano as Jimmy Tree
Jane Fonda as Brenda Morel Roly Serrano as Diego Maradona
Alex Macqueen as HM emissary Luna Zimic Mijovic as masseuse
Robert Seethaler as Luca Moroder Tom Lipinski as Screenwriter
Chloe Pirrie as Screenwriter Alex Beckett as Screenwriter
Nate Dern as Screenwriter Mark Gessner as Screenwriter
Ed Stoppard as Julian Boyle Paloma Faith as herself
Mark Kozelek as himself Mădălina Diana Ghenea as Miss Universe
Never waste a moment
“Yoof! Wasted on ’em” Janet Street-Porter
Right said Fred, I said only blow the bloody doors off! Action man Michael Caine (Fred), enigma, not many people know that scores highly as the elderly curmudgeonly retired composer in reflections about life with the voiceover artist (DirectLine Insurance) come actor Harvey Kietel (Mick) in robust knowing form as a film director having a fit about his construct of a script for a movie, it’s on is third draft apparently and in situ are a team of young(ish) they happen to be around thirty, whose interjections more or less have stalled the process.
The setting is a luxury hydrotherapy and health fixated Swiss alpine hotel. Switzerland is becoming more bizarre by the day with the Athletic Federation, FIFA, end of life Termi, Banking and Tax haven, Immigration hostilities and the heritage Julie Andrews, the cows and cowbells gave us in The Sound of Music providing us with a rich presupposed richness. There is a sacred place as well, Rougemont (not the hotel location) happens to be the location of the J. Krishnamurti Foundation and affords and accords a deeply meaningful relationship with nature viewing Rübli, Videmanette, among other things to meditate on the Creator.
Landscape prime and pure
The hotel with the backdrop of the Alps – the Matterhorn is there somewhere – provides a salutary hideaway and beautiful backdrop for its hundred or more guests and our visual delight. Chocolates and expensive watches are mere sidelines as are red trains running on time. We are firstly treated to a musical interlude which comes as a pop band on a rotating lit stage in the grounds of the hotel as al fresco entertainment. The song will be familiar but you will not quite place it as the opening scene draws you in.
Score Silent Songs
Music is a core part of this film. Simple Songs is composer Fred’s Crown Jewels and Her Majesty wishes him to play it as a gala which might conferr a Knighthood upon him. Just one of the central absurdity comedic and very funny planks this film presents. Strangely youth isn’t present a great deal except they, the patients all have been through it and little very young children who wouldn’t qualify as being called the ‘youth’ serve up some of the best lines. There are many good lines and perhaps this is the draw for the two maestros of Cinema whose presence saves this film with it almost being like fruit rotting on the vine. Vines come and go and this is composed as a set of vines maybe as fragmented and multi faceted parts are loosely weaved together. It would be unfair to call it a mash up but it borders on it. It is more Operatic and sanqine.
Friends United. Great Cast.
The first half introduces these two men as friends, one relaxing and having the facility of being cared for and checked upon as years have accumulated wear and tear. Mick is alone except for his five scriptwriters. Fred has his daughter Lela, the fabulous brilliant actress, Rachel Wiesz stay and share his quarters before she heads off on another journey with .., Paul Dano who is Micks son. All becomes unsettled, I won’t say how, and the relationships are challenged with the theme being youth and music. In parallel with Freds story about the revisiting of the Simple Songs – represented sweetly by cows, kids and chocs – is Micks whose film hinges on the reprise for a love of his the leading actress. Late into the film we are given a big wake up from the cadaver nature of some of the film episodes by the winging in of Brenda aka Jane Fonda. She recently said not unobservantly “Jes, I was so hot in those days who the hell wouldn’t fancy me!” Such is cinema in Holywood et al.
One scene reminded me it was as if Rachel Wiesz had walked off the set of Lobster and we were in a continuum and alternative hotel as her afterlife such were the narratives obtuse, psychological gestures. Here is a hotel where the staff have lives separate and apart. They are merely serving each and every whim and need of the clientele as they are embalmed in clay or towels or water along the boring routine existence at the therapy hotel. It is a scene where orderly lines traverse a walkway to and fro a pool or spa or sauna. Some discreetly naked, some in towel gowns but obedience and a code of behaviour is adhered to rigidly and like Animal Farm or 1984 or Lobster, along with other dystopian traits is envoked.
Except this is pressingly real and the enclave is a set of twenty first century evaluations of wealthy and ordinary. The ordinary is portrayed; except it isn’t, you’ll get the drift while the ‘presentation’ separations unfold, for example by the masseuse who is about the only youth and not a callow one but a young girl taking steps in her life and reaching maturation. I could strain your nerves with analogies to Swiss Cheeses ripening but as the director swerved by that analogy so will I.
She is beautifully played and projected by Luna Zimic Mijovic as a masseuse and it is to these single moments (what Reith Lecturer Stephen Hawking might describe as a singularity where a planet – this is a rich vein of connection – implodes into itself becoming a greater and greater mass until it folds into itself to a huge mass as a black hole – it’s like a windows zip file except all the data is unretrievable from a black hole – within present knowledge) which there are several which make this film so remarkable yet frustrating. It is relying on superficiality and only when Rachel Wiess gets up a head of steam – she does it it a restrained beautifully crafted way which is the essence of her acting besides her fine beautiful features – or the two maestros deliver soliloquies of very strong content. The Paloma Faith entry as herself is funny and her metal is given full on music treatment in a diversion which Paolo Sorrentino repeatedly relies on.
There is something in that black hole paradox I make as I see the film intended to, and Michael Caine navigates it superbly, of memory accumulating, of father daughter relationship; Harvey Kietel has a father son comparison speech to make, so alluding to the passage of time and how expectations of youth are flipped on their head once looking back and philosoph pays a visit as does the value game and evaluation of a life through a life and with summaries placed before you. With a daily presence of Altzimers disease occupying any and predictions we are in for a growing avalanche of the disease it is tough to consume the implications of loss of memory, how it materialises and then perhaps ultimately becomes dust before death.
What shines their eyes is the naked Miss Universe Mădălina Diana Ghenea bathing.
Paolo Sorrentino’s story has a beginning middle and end despite what strands and threads I remark on as sideline ‘effects’ so all ages will enjoy this hopefully. Except pre-youth presumably. All adults are this strange to them. Our slightly experienced jaundiced view expect absurdity and enjoy maverick or eccentric personality as this features here at a celebrity level – come to think of it no minor characters are employed except as mediums for jokes amid mischievousness. Side bets, closet prostitution, service the film.
Paolo Sorrentino uses the medium in a film noir way to examine the art of Cinematography employing in the fellow director role the discourse on what fiction deserves screening. What endeavour need be employed. He gets a teach in from Jane Fonda. She is cast as the siren with a difficult past, with a desire to act, paying bills would be nice in the mega dollar present day industry. She devours the script chews it up and spits it out with exemplary vision and viperish wisdom spiked venom. Good just to see her own topping and tailing of the Cinema vogue. Bright as a silver hat pin. Whether Paolo Sorrentino succeeds is for a longer project. Lines written these days – unless your a Tarantino fanatic – never get repeat coverage or enter folklore but a harvest could be made of some recent dialogue which I see as a standard of writing trying to equal and surpass the diet of television and challenging perspectives, documentary included being cinefied.
Conclusion 3/half! ###*
There is a lot to savour in this black comic surreal/real film. It Spurs emotion of youth as mirroring age and decay of one sort or another. It takes the theme of replenishment through action – creativity, be that film making, painting, music, writing as essential discoveries and the promulgated diet of many in the consuming western world. A digital universe. Phones storing contacts, contacting, communicating and the ubiquity of trains running on time and the decadence of luxury. Alongside are few opposites set. The only one we are intended to smart about, that is think about, is dwelling on youth and its presence fleeting and also ever present. This is a sumptuous visually stimulating film with many many enjoyable parts. It’s multi-faceted nature is sometimes a burden but the acting troop are excellent in every detail. Well worth a visit if not recommended as a destination as Samuel Johnson may have described it. It savours life and is funny and emotionally packed. Vacation where next? Why 3/half, it’s because it’s a bit of a curates egg.
See exclusively at Queens Film Theatre in Belfast in this province from 29th January to 4th February 2016.