Saturday, March 23, 2013

Don't-Miss DVD & Blu-ray: Italian master Paolo Sorrentino THIS MUST BE THE PLACE

A movie that came and went with amazing speed and near-silence, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE -- from that Italian master of cinema, Paolo Sorrentino, who has given us Il Divo, The Consequences of Love and The Family Friend -- is another strange, beautiful and not-so-easily categorized movie that lingers long after its credits have rolled. Giving Sean Penn what may be his best role ever (one in which he holds back quite beautifully, rather than letting loose and boring us all too soon), the movie also gets terrific performances from its entire ensemble.

Signore Sorrentino, shown at right, is a marvelous stylist. All four of his films that I've seen are extraor-dinarily beautiful to view, each in its own manner. Each also stars a fine actor playing the role of an odd, obsessed and solitary man, successful in his own world and at his own game but not so much anywhere or with anyone else. Mr. Penn. below, has a quiet field day here; he seems a to be channeling simultaneously some strange combination of the most subdued modes of both Gene Simmons and Quentin Crisp, and he is utterly remarkable at it. This is an extraordinarily brave performance on Penn's part because, once we get quickly past his bizarre appearance, he remains so quiet and subdued that we begin hanging on his every word and tiny movement. The reward: seeing an actor of great intelligence and fierce focus giving his all to a most bizarre role.

Penn, above, plays Cheyenne, an ex-rocker who has withdrawn to his estate in Ireland where he lives with his loved and loving companion (the always fine Frances McDormand, in the penultimate photo, below) and maybe a daughter (a oddly lovely Eve Hewson, below), never plays music, and seems to concentrate only on making money via the market.

When his father suddenly dies back in the USA, Cheyenne learns that the old man was a Holocaust survivor who had been a victim of a Nazi guard, whom Cheyenne then takes upon himself to find -- and kill. Along the way he hooks up with everyone from the war criminal's relatives (among these, a granddaughter played by Kerry Condon (below), to a big-time Nazi hunter (Judd Hirsch).

This sounds a bit crazy and it plays even more so. Yet it also plays perfectly into Cheyenne's character and Penn's performance -- he is both funny and endearing: two qualities I've rarely encountered in this actor since Fast Times at Ridgemont High -- as well as into all the other characters our hero meets along this odd road-trip.

Now, about the extraordinary beauty of this film: From the opening credits -- in a lovely script and dayglo chartreuse -- to the composition and gorgeous colors strewn about the filmmaker's canvas, this is an experience not to be missed. (If you can at all view this film on a Blu-ray disc, do.) Yes, that's David Byrne, below in white, playing himself and contributing some wonderful music to the movie's soundtrack.

Much has been made of Michelangelo Antonioni and his creative "color" work on Red Desert, but I must say that this film has, for me, sets the new standard of what creative use of color can bring to a motion picture.

The film has lessons to impart, I think, but it teaches with a tender, sometimes ironic hand. And the change that occurs, while it takes on quite a physical presence in Mr. Penn, has an after-life that may have you thinking about the film at odd times, once your first viewing has ended.

This Must Be the Place, from The Weinstein Company via Anchor Bay Entertainmentis now available on DVD and Blu-ray, for sale and/or rental, and other currently favored forms of viewing (VOD, streaming).  Take a chance, film buffs, and discover the wonders of Paolo Sorrentino -- if you haven't already.

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