Spare, enigmatic and mannered, German director Tom Tykwer's adaptation of a screenplay by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and the late Krzysztof Kieslowski is a dreamy fable about love at first sight, fluid identities and the search for meaning in a world ruled by corruption and arbitrary cruelty. The story starts with a literal bang: Philippa Paccard (Cate Blanchett),...read more
Spare, enigmatic and mannered, German director Tom Tykwer's adaptation of a screenplay by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and the late Krzysztof Kieslowski is a dreamy fable about love at first sight, fluid identities and the search for meaning in a world ruled by corruption and arbitrary cruelty. The story starts with a literal bang: Philippa Paccard (Cate Blanchett), a widowed English teacher living in Turin, plants a bomb in the office of businessman Marco Vendici (Stefano Santospago). She goes to some lengths to ensure no one else is in Vendici's immediate vicinity, then calls the police and confesses. After Philippa's arrest, she learns what we already know: The bomb killed a middle-aged cleaning woman and a father visiting the building with his two little girls, while Vendici escaped unscathed. The police ignore Philippa's claims that she took drastic action because her repeated efforts to get Vendici investigated for drug-dealing failed. They find no official record of her complaints, and Philippa's own copies of her fruitless correspondence have vanished from her apartment. But among her corrupt and indifferent interrogators, Philippa has an ally: Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi), the second-generation police officer who acts as her translator, is immediately, hopelessly smitten. He concocts a reckless escape plan, helps her lure Vendici into a trap and then flees with her to the Tuscan countryside, abandoning family and fledgling career. An odd union of two sensibilities, the film's tone falls awkwardly between Kieslowski's meditative concerns and Tykwer's love of flourish-filled filmmaking. It begins by appropriating the conventions of criminal-couple-on-the-run thrillers, quickly drifts into more metaphysical territory as the fugitive lovers, already united by their homophonic names, shed their distinguishing clothes (his uniform, her hooded jacket) for plain white t-shirts and black jeans, then submit to mutual gender-blurring buzz cuts. Reduced (or refined) to near-identical anonymity, they slip free of their past lives, which were defined by the needs of others (Philippa's drug-addicted husband and Filippo's father, whose illustrious law-enforcement career cast a long shadow over his high-strung son) and move towards a common, if uncertain, destiny. The conclusion, clearly meant to feel ambiguously poetic, is distinctly unsatisfying. Kieslowski, whose work includes the acclaimed BLUE (1993), RED and WHITE (both 1994) trilogy and THE DECALOGUE (1988), a series of one-hour films inspired by the Biblical commandments, intended to follow this film with two more, "Hell" and "Purgatory." He had completed only the first screenplay at the time of his death in 1996. (In English and subtitled Italian)
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