Greetings again from the darkness. OK, I feel terrible. This movie is a darling of the critics. Juliette Binoche won the highest acting award at Cannes for her performance. It’s the first film from outside of Iran by legendary writer/director Abbas Kiarostami (Under the Olive Tree). It is a technical masterpiece filled with various philosophies on art, love and life. It’s filmed in one of the most beautiful and historic areas in the world. The one thing it didn’t do very well was capture my interest. I know … I feel terrible.
In my defense, this is a very odd film. Is it about two people courting each other? Is it about two people role-playing? Is it about two people trying to re-capture or deflect a previous relationship? Is it all of those things? To make matters worse, it plays a bit like a grown-up Before Sunrise or Before Sunset. Brace yourself … I didn’t much like either of those Richard Linklater classics. Again, I feel terrible.
Pretty much everything I have to say about this movie is positive. Ms. Binoche is outstanding and captivating. William Shimell is a long way from his British Opera fame, but does an admirable job as the less-than-enchanting writer and object of Ms. Binoche’s attention. The quaint Tuscan town of Lucignano comes off beautifully as the locale that newlyweds flock to for romance and photo ops. The sound editing is spectacular: birds chirping and flapping, water dripping from fountains, footsteps clattering … all of these make up the realistic backdrop for the barrage of verbal tangling. Even the camera work is expert. Sometimes we are POV with one of the characters, while other times we are the eyes unto which they gaze. Both effects are startling.
All those pieces are very well done and technically expert. The two characters are interesting enough on their own, but the “story” or approach of having these two play-pretend just didn’t grab me. Yes, Yes, Yes … I feel just terrible about it.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you enjoy the endless jabbering between two people like what we heard in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset … only these two don’t play nicely.
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: a beautiful Tuscan setting is just not quite enough for you.