Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Bigger Splash (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

A Bigger Splash

If by chance hallucinatory CGI epics are not your bag, here is "A Bigger Splash" by director Luca Guadagnino. This film is riveting and offbeat, pulsing with energy and a jolt of the amoral which is no less authentic.

Tilda Swinton is Marianne Lane, a glam-era rock star with a space age persona reminicent of Bowie. Lane is convalescing from a voice injury with her photographer boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) at an exclusive Sicilian location. Abruptly, the couple gets a surprise phone call that an old friend is coming to town.

Enter Harry (Ralph Fiennes) a gadabout name dropper and engineer who once worked with intimately with Lane and The Rolling Stones. Paul doesn't know what to make of the impromptu visit and is especially suprised to see Harry accompanied by a luxuriant teen named Penelope (Dakota Johnson) and it is at first unclear whether she is a protege, lover or a daughter.

Paul is chagrined.

The narrative is slow, rhythmic and unfolds very much as life itself. Hostile or dyspeptic glances are juxtaposed with plates of disemboweled fish. Swinton's icy makeup and sharp boned face within the ivory white apartment makes her seem like a lone and reclusive parrot fish that has run aground on a comfortable but limiting reef. There are indeed shades of Bowie's alien character here, especially in the sight of Swinton with fire-red hair wearing reflector sunglasses.

But more to the point, the film resembles Rene Clement's haunting and naturalistic film "Purple Noon" in its coupling of poetic imagery with sudden violence. The story is in fact taken from Jacques Deray's "Le Piscine" which featured Alain Delon who also starred in the aforementioned "Purple Noon."

The cinematography which portrays the isle of Pantelleria as a starched calcified desert is first-rate, as is Fiennes' singular, stand-alone performance as the over-sexed engineer and confidante. The actor's performance is just shy of a libidinous and scaly metamorphosis.

This is a tale about melancholia, ego and the passage of time just as it is about pushes and pulls.  For those that might lose patience with muted dinners, long walks and averted glances along rocky inclines, stick it out: "A Bigger Splash" has a punchy tone of Dionysus and dementia that will not disappoint.

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