Sunday, June 19, 2016

Charlotte Rampling gets another (semi) juicy role in Barnaby Southcombe's (semi) mystery thriller -- I, ANNA


It's usually an unalloyed pleasure to watch Charlotte Rampling work -- whether in an odd-but-revealing documentary like The Look, or giving a grand and probing performance in the recent 45 Years, or as here, in the made-in-2012-but-only-now-getting-a-video-release movie I, ANNA. Ms Rampling is often better than the films she's in (45 Years in an exception, but this one is not), although paired with that very capable actor Gabriel Byrne and surrounded by support that comes from Eddie MarsanHayley Atwell and Jodhi May, these actors bring enough luster to keep you interested and alert.

As directed and adapted (from the novel by Elsa Lewin) by Barnaby Southcombe (shown at left), who has worked in television for some fifteen years (this is his first full-length feature), the movie tracks the tale of an older woman named Anna (Ms Rampling), as she goes out for the first time to one of those "dating" evenings that take place in the meeting rooms of large hotels, and at which she uses the pseudonym, Allegra.

Just previous to this, we've seen her in a phone booth (no cell phone for this lady!) asking if she might join someone (lover? ex-husband?) on some sort of trip. We only see one side of the conversation, but the answer appears to be negative. Sure enough, Anna meets someone at the dating night, but  before you can say "Have fun, honey," our girl suddenly appears to come awake and rise from the floor next to her date -- who is now a very bloodied corpse.

What happened here -- and how -- is what the movie is mostly about. That, and the not-very-professional police work done by our "hero," the investigating detective played by Mr. Byrne (above), who meets our heroine in the building's elevator, where she has left her umbrella, and appears to fall in love at first sight (well, hell: the object of that love is Ms Rampling, so why not?).

Does our Anna (above) return that interest? Yes, sort of, but this lady, particularly as brought to life by the actress, is a rather complicated person. Divorced, she has a daughter and grandson with whom she lives and in whom (the daughter, at least, played with loving annoyance by Ms. Atwell) she confides.

Slowly and bit by bit (a little too slowly, in fact, and with too many of those bits), the filmmaker lets us have a closer look at what happened on that fateful night. Other possible suspects come to the fore -- the man's ex-wife (Ms May) and his son -- yet back and back we keep coming to the Rampling character. And the actress does not disappoint.

Unlike Dominique Sanda (whom we viewed only yesterday), Catherine Deneuve, Stefania Sandrelli, as well as other actress of this age range, Rampling has not grown matronly. She is as stunning and svelte as ever -- just older. And I think she is more able now than ever before to be expressive and deepen her performances.

Mr. Southcombe does have a major surprise in store for us, and the fun of this lies in how we suddenly see the ways in which we've been misled all along. For his finale, the filmmaker clearly has a choice of two directions. While I would have chosen the other one, the needs of today's marketplace surely predicated the unjustified and less-than-believable ending of I, Anna.

From The KimStim Collection and running 93 minutes, the movie is being distributed in the USA by Icarus Films Home Video, and will appear on DVD this Tuesday, June 21, for rental or purchase.

2 comments:

Lilli said...

I agree with you.Rampling was wonderful,but the storyline with the other suspects were a little bit to long.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for your comment, Lilli (and glad you agree, of course)!