Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Italy/France/Switzerland/United Kingdom, 2015. Indigo Film, Barbary Films, Pathe, France 2 Cinema, Number 9 Films, C-Films AG, Medusa Film, Film4, Canal+, Cine+, France Televisions, RSI-Radiotelevisione Svizzera, SRG SSR Idee Suisse, Téléclub, Mediaset Premium, Ministero per I Beni e le Attivita Culturali, Regione del Veneto, Regione Lazio, Bundesamt für Kultur,Fonds Eurimages du Conseil de l’Europe. Screenplay by Paolo Sorrentino. Cinematography by Luca Bigazzi. Produced by Carlotta Calori, Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano. Music by David Lang. Production Design by Ludovica Ferrario. Costume Design by Carlo Poggioli. Film Editing by Cristiano Travaglioli.
Famous composer and conductor Michael Caine and filmmaker Harvey Keitel are old friends staying at a luxurious resort in Switzerland, Caine retired from conducting music and Keitel working on his latest film with his screenwriting team. Surrounding them are bodies old and young that spin them off into contemplations of their own lives, particularly their feelings about aging and their decreasing sense of vitality (a repeated conversation about successful urination being the way they often begin). Their lives are also in disarray as Keitel is working on a script for a famous actress and Caine has been asked by the Queen to accept a knighthood and come out of retirement to perform his most famous piece. Also on hand are Caine’s daughter (Rachel Weisz) who is dealing with a bad marriage situation, and Paul Dano (surprisingly effective) as a Hollywood actor doing research for his next role. With so many strands of plot and a multitude of themes, it sounds like an unholy mess and, at two plus hours, it is, but what a grand and delightfully enjoyable mess. Filmed with all the dazzling imagery that Paolo Sorrentino always emphasizes but blessed with rich writing that, in a rare turn of substance for the filmmaker, presents philosophical conversations that are actually humorous and poignant, this one may wander in search of a through line but delights while doing so. It takes place in a world that is enjoyable to get lost in, the personalities are all sympathetic and the conclusion, featuring a cameo by a stunning Jane Fonda, hits deep. It’s very possible that this is not a good film, but it’s impossible to know while you’re watching it.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Original Song (“Simple Song #3”)
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition
European Film Awards: Best European Film; Best European Actor (Michael Caine); Best European Director (Paolo Sorrentino)
Nominations: Best European Actress (Rachel Weisz); Best European Screenwriter
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Jane Fonda); Best Original Song (“Simple Song #3”)
Toronto International Film Festival: 2015