Friday, September 7, 2012

TIFF 2012: Io e Te

The fearsome Falco as Olivia 

Io e Te (Me and You) (Italy, 2012) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, 103 minutes
Friday, September 7th, 9.45p, Scotiabank Theatre 3

This is my first film at TIFF with the lovely Ms. C. We will see about ten films together over the next ten days. So happy to start with the Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci, a hero of mine.

Last Tango in Paris. The Conformist. The Sheltering Sky. Stealing Beauty … he is a true master. So with reluctance I am somewhat sad to report that Io e Te fails to kindle that sense of intense pleasure or discomfort or unease that Bertolucci’s films often elicit.

Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) is a troubled fourteen year old teenager from an affluent background who seems to have rage issues and a strange fixation on his mother likely because they are often alone together. He appears to both loathe and covet her and that makes for some strange dinner conversations. He is trying to resolve these issues with a therapist paid for at great expense by his frequently absent rich father.

Perversely, rather than go on a ski trip with his school, he decides to hide in the basement of his apartment for a week and pretends to go on the trip. Stocked with food, drink, blankets and his favourite music all appears to go as planned until his half-sister Olivia (Tea Falco) appears searching for a gold bracelet that she can pawn to get more drugs to feed her habit. A heroine addict (probably the most voluptuous and gorgeous addict you might ever see on film), Olivia enters Lorenzo’s sacred space like a hurricane, belittling him, threatening and accusing, and heaping scorn on Lorenzo, who is the son of their father’s second wife whom Olivia once tried to kill buy bashing her over the head with a rock.

The film initially hints at a possible entanglement between son and mother and then brother and sister but that fades away with the calming of the emotional storm within Lorenzo. At the end, we have a sense that Lorenzo has worked something out of his system and Olivia will try and give up drugs. The director even ends on a freeze frame of Lorenzo’s smiling face as if to emphasize the somewhat happy ending.

The acting by all three principals is proficient. Antinori is convincingly alienated and confused – replete with bad skin, tousled mop and a hostile manner. Falco is by turns petulant, rage-filled then penitent and cowed by her attempt to go cold turkey in front of her bewildered half brother. But the ending disappoints. Has Bertolucci gone sentimental in his old age? Now 72 and confined to a wheelchair he is no longer able to travel and was not at the screening although his producer was.

Where is the threat of danger and violence that suffused Tango? The paranoia and tension in Fascist Italy as depicted in The Conformist? Or the beauty of The Sheltering Sky and The Last Emperor? It feels as if Bertolucci’s energy is depleted … the anger and passion flushed away. I felt the same disappointment in seeing Coppola’s last offering, Twixt, at last year’s TIFF. As if he had softened and mellowed. 

This was how Last Tango in Paris was once described:
"Obscene content offensive to public decency... presented with obsessive self-indulgence, catering to the lowest instincts of the libido, dominated by the idea of stirring unchecked appetites for sexual pleasure, permeated by scurrilous language ... accompanied off screen by sounds, sighs and shrieks of climax pleasure." 

It saddens me that old lions don’t leave us with a roar … more like a comforting purr.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Beatifully written review....I will add that I did think it was nicely shot. But agree on it's being a purr after so many roars.