Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Italy/France, 2015. Frenesy Film Company, Cota Film, StudioCanal, Ministero per I Beni e le Attivita Culturali, Regione Siciliana, Sicilia Film Commission, Sensi Contemporanei Cinema e Audiovisivo. Screenplay by David Kajganich, based on the story by Alain Page. Cinematography by Yorick Le Saux. Produced by Michael Costigan, Luca Guadagnino. Production Design by Maria Djurkovic. Costume Design by Giulia Piersanti. Film Editing by Walter Fasano.
Tilda Swinton is a rock star recovering from vocal chord surgery in her idyllic, isolated villa in Sicily, accompanied by her filmmaker lover Matthias Schoenaerts. The pure, erotic silence of their existence while waiting for her to recover is interrupted by the appearance of her obnoxiously vibrant music producer ex-boyfriend Ralph Fiennes, accompanied by his sullen daughter (Dakota Johnson) whom he has only known for a year. Fiennes indulges in the sights, the booze, and the cuisine of his surroundings, never above a midnight nude swim or a marathon karaoke session fueled by drugs, while Schoenaerts quietly hopes to get rid of the visitors and Swinton insists it’s a great opportunity to break up their monotony and, besides, he’s an old friend.
Every image is drenched in sunlight and every encounter swimming in sensuality as Luca Guadignano’s remake of La Piscine builds towards what is likely the inevitable climax between a group of people who cannot reconcile their complicated feelings for each other with their inability to decide what they want out of life. It’s a hopelessly glamorous film that doesn’t realize that we can see right through its pretentions towards high drama, but the enjoyment of watching these fantastic and attractive actors interact is enough to make it a satisfying night at the movies.
Fiennes is stunning in a rare change of pace, leaving behind the piercing stare and measured voice and creating a brilliant portrayal through manic energy and grossly excessive verbiage, beautifully juxtaposed with the exquisite sight of Swinton transmitting so much with little more than the desperation of a raspy whisper. Where the film fails is that it does not earn its ending, as Guadagnino is too in love with gorgeous images and the many bursts of sexuality to remember to ratchet up the tension in any noticeable way, but he keeps it charismatic anyway, and the film is too funny and sexy to be a waste of time.
Venice Film Festival: In Competition