Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Trip to Italy (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Trip to Italy

Two pop culture-obsessed people are at it again, traversing though Europe in funny voices. This is "The Trip to Italy", by Michael Winterbottom, a sequel to an earlier "The Trip" where we saw a more hirsute and crestfallen Steve Coogan and a permanently upbeat Rob Brydon, doing versions of themselves.

Here they are in Italy now (Lord Byron territory) dining and chattering away while making fun of Hollywood.

The key to the films have always been the easy chemistry that Coogan and Brydon possess, and it is in  clear evidence once more.

The duo are now family men, but rather than worry about their families, they ramble on about actors and acting and try to out do each other.

Coogan rolls his eyes while Brydon goes on at length about Christian Bale and Tom Hardy. His favorite impression is Al Pacino. While Brydon's voices always seem to just miss, (every voice sounds the same) that adds to the fun. It's a kick and a holler to watch Coogan's irritation.

The shots of the Italian countryside are nothing less than a visual Pannettone aflame with stars and the appearances of the cuisine are so buttery and sumptuous that all seems to roll and slide off the plate in a salacious salivary 3D.

There are poignant wraiths of mortality throughout. The couples journey to the beach on Tuscany where Shelley was roasted on a pyre and his heart (like a galvanic mollusk) was saved and given to Mary. They journey to Rome and quip by the poet's grave. There is a wonderfully sneaky shot of Shelley's Memorial and its almost as if the camera was giving a respectful, if covert kiss with some singular and image-hungry eyes in shyness.

Shelley and Byron are thick ghosts and their shade seems to hang everywhere, mixing with talk of Robert De Niro and the ubiquitous Al Pacino to make a new spirit with appendages from an iPhone culture, transmuting into something truly rich and strange.

The linen and gray pair also go to the catacombs and are promptly creeped out. The Specter of Death does make a cameo, but his scythe is more of a smile rather than a sharp edge.

Coogan has a son, Joe (Timothy Leach) and Brydon is having an affair with a deck-hand Lucy (Rosie Fellner). While this might seem Allenesque, it isn't. The duo seems more at ease retreating into a Hollywood carnival of their own making with a carousel of voices, which is interesting in itself.

Curiously, Steve Coogan emerges as the more confident one. It is he alone who tries to reconnect with his son, while Brydon encloses himself in a stream of silly imitations, whenever the recitation of poetry forces Brydon to give a little of his human self.

These touches, akin to drizzles of red and yellow on a slice of fish or beef, make the film.

All in all, "The Trip to Italy" is a fine repast. Predictable at first glance it is, but Coogan and Brydon share enough intimacy under the nonsense, which gives the hilarity a hint of well placed haunt.

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