Friday, June 8, 2018

An, uh, unrealistic love story

Sometimes you just wonder what the point of a film, play, book – and in this case novella – is. The film, directed by Dominic Cooke, is On Chesil Beach, based on the novella by contemporary English author Ian McEwan, who happens to be one of my favorites. But, alas, this movie (seen elsewhere but not in local cinemas) was a disappointment. Here’s the thing: the story is about two young people (Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan) who marry in 1962. You’ve got to wonder if the story is autobiographical but I haven’t seen any evidence it is. Both characters are extremely awkward during what is supposed to be wedding night bliss. Florence (Ronan) finally declares she’s frigid. Which upsets our poor lad no end. He stomps off and wanders, as it happens, a mile or so down Chesil Beach, a beautiful pebbled filled beach on England’s southern coast (so precious McEwan caused a scandal by taking home some pebbles and had to return them). Florence (Saoirse) runs after him. She figuratively throws herself at him, saying she’s at fault and still loves him and, the kicker, he can have any woman he wants – for sex. Edward (Howle), pigheadedly, will have none of it (it is 1962 and he’s a red-blooded English male). And that is the end of this very – very - brief marriage. Until Edward, now in his Seventies, sees Florence, a professional violinist, perform and breaks down over the error of his previous ways. Altogether, this is a lackluster story and you wonder what compelled McEwan to write it, unless he is Edward. (For some reason, I can see McEwan being awkwardly nerdish.) But how realistic is it? What woman, especially in 1962, would pledge love but an open relationship with as many women as her husband wanted? 
I also caught Stanley Tucci’s Final Portrait at last month’s WIFF monthly film series at the Capitol Theatre. Geoffrey Rush is terrific as the extremely eccentric artist, Alberto Giacometti, known for his rough edged skinny sculptures and brooding gray-black paintings, often described as images of alienation. But the film suffers from claustrophobia, literally. Most of the action takes place within the artist’s studio. Sure, there are outdoor scenes, mainly long walks between the man having his portrait – interminably – done, critic James Lord, (Armie Hammer) in a famous Paris cemetery. And there are a few café scenes. But the film has no wider vision – either location-wise or story-wise. How does Giacometti, a great artist, fit into the pantheon of modern art history?  Where are his wider Paris community, friends, associates? Nevertheless, Rush is amazing. But the movie is just too narrow in scope.

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