I Am Love (2009)

lo sono l'amore...this film is an Italian language film with subtitles.

I was not sure about seeing this Luca Guadagnino film, but the operatic family drama about turn of the millennium Milan and a dynasty of industrial wealth is not boring or predictable. I would see anything with Tilda Swinton, who is cast as Emma, the Russian immigrant to Italy who is married to Tancredi, the son of the Recchi Clothing tycoon. Now the mother of three grown children (Edo, Gianluca, Betta), she is planning a party for the Recchi patriarch as he prepares to name an heir to the family business.

Life in the haute bourgeoisie is full of beauty, lavish foods, fabrics, art. Lovely at middle age in her sheath dresses and mile-high pumps, Emma is the lithe maternal goddess who binds the family together. Self-contained and enigmatic, she seems to enjoy little marital intimacy, despite the stately bedroom she shares with Tancredi. Who is she really? As the young people party outside by the pool, she sits alone high above all the action stitching her needlepoint, content to close herself away with drawn drapes. We do begin to learn more about her as the story unfolds and a younger man captures her attention.

Everyone in this film is attractive. Marisa Berenson is the glistening and glamorous wife of the patriarch, mother to Tancredi. We begin to see that the loveliness and sparkle of this world is not as solid as it seems. What happens to tradition and stability when sweeping changes blow through the Recchi family?

Edo has partnered with a progressive young chef to open a restaurant. Betta has broken up with her boyfriend and moved to London, where she is finding herself in new ways. Gianluca and his wife are expecting their first child. The Recchi clothing business faces a new chapter as we watch that drama unfold in the corporate boardroom. A turbaned businessman speaks eloquently about the necessity of business to change in response to a rapidly growing world population.

Each member of the Recchi family face their own personal transformation as the container shatters. The pace of this film builds slowly as the stage is set for the unexpected events to unfold and by the end, one walks out of the theater feeling the effect of an emotional roller coaster. The story lingers with me.

See archives on sidebar for reviews of other Tilda Swinton films (Julia--Oct. 2009, Limits of Control--Dec. 2009, Broken Flowers--Jan. 2010).

I had recently seen two other films that share common themes of infidelity and inevitability of personal change that comes along with that. I liked both films very much...

The Kids Are Alright features an American middle-class family featuring lesbian mothers with two teenage children.

Cloud 9 is a German language film with subtitles featuring a lower middle-class married couple with a grown daughter and young grandchildren.


Please Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

Coming soon to a theater near you...

This Bansky film premiered at Sundance in March. It may be awhile before it makes it to Buffalo so while visiting Manhattan I walked through the buzzy streets of East Houston to see it at the Sunshine Cinema.

I became interested in the elusive artist, Bansky, after hearing that an art object made by him was mentioned in Dennis Hopper's messy divorce that was in the news a couple months ago. The film explores the street art scene that actually began in the 1980s and later evolved into the image-based graphic style of the last ten-twenty years.

Through the lens of videographer, Thierry Guetta, we see an emerging scene that he observes and films while visiting France. His cousin, Space Invader, subversively installs lo-tech images of the video game character using small colored tiles in random public places. As he learns more about the scene, Guetta becomes curious to find out more about notorious counter-cultural prankster, Bansky. The British artist is known for graphic figures that appear in public places...such as an image of a police officer with a pink balloon dog or homeless man holding a sign that reads Keep Your Coins I WANT CHANGE.

In the United States, Shepard Fairey's experiment in phenomenology began appearing in the 1990s when he distributed stickers to the skater community with an image of 7'4", 500 pound wrestler, Andre the Giant. His OBEY giant logo is plastered on walls all over the world. He later created the HOPE poster of Barack Obama that was used as the 2008 campaign poster. The scene is not all male...Swoon's large-scale images of everyday people doing everyday things began appearing on walls in New York during this past decade.

While telling a story about the street art scene, Guetta interviews Bansky in the style of a 20/20 profile of someone in witness protection...with voice alteration and blurred face. We learn that Thierry Guetta is a frenchman living in L.A. with a family and clothing business. Through Bansky's participation in this film project, Guetta becomes inspired to take on the name Mr. Brainwash and begin making his own brand of street art. Much of this work features alterations of popular iconic cultural imagery, such as the one above, titled Jackson (Pollock). Success follows him as thousands attend his 2008 L.A. show, Life Is Beautiful, and Madonna commissions him to design the album cover for Celebration. Prior to the Sundance screening of this film, Mr. Brainwash had his first NYC show.

Anyone who has attended a large museum show lately knows that these events strategically exit everyone through an enticing gift shop display devoted entirely to items related that particular show. The art souvenir has become equivalent to the art experience. The film raises many questions. What is art? Can a commodity be art? Is the film entirely self-promotion? Is Mr. Brainwash simply another way for Bansky to express his own art? No matter what, the film is entertaining and provocative.