THIS MUST BE THE PLACE(2011) **** (directed by Paolo Sorrentino)
> I saw a trailer for this unique indie film that hinted at a remarkable performance by one of our finest actors (and directors) Sean Penn, in a mode we have certainly never seen before: as an aging rock star who stopped making his morose, downbeat brand of music after a tragedy, (Think Robert Smith of The Cure: big messy black hair over bright red lipstick!), and I knew I just had to see it. If this film was ever released in my town, I missed it. In fact, it was completely off my radar. Thank goodness for the movie trailers before DVD movies, or I might have never found this quirky gem!
. Full of surprises, this unpredictable film, named after the delightful Talking Heads ditty “Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place)”, and featuring a white-haired David Byrne himself in a brief, partly musical cameo, handles serious topics with surprising and gratifying lightness. It is as wonderful to listen to as it is to watch, with a great soundtrack and vivid color palate highlighting golden amber yellows to striking effect.
. The action takes place 20 years after two of his ardent fans commit a public, messy suicide, citing his influence. The sensitive artist is devastated, and stops making music altogether in his grief. The tormented artist visits the girls’ gravesites daily, despite being made unwelcome by the grieving parents who blame him for their loss. Suddenly, his father falls ill. Having been a near-hermit for so long, it is a very big step for this painfully shy, isolated man to set off alone to be by his estranged father’s deathbed, and his wife (Francis MacDormand, good as ever), has her doubts whether he is up to it or not. The big monkey wrench: dad was a concentration camp survivor, with a lifelong vendetta against a prison guard who humiliated him in a way he could never forgive. The torch is passed from father to son, and this soft, whiney pampered gloom-rock star becomes the world’s most unlikely Nazi hunter!
. Pleased to say that, yes, this is about the best Sean Penn ever! How he manages to pull off an entire film in this claustrophobic, rather pathetic milquetoast persona is a wonder to behold. Is there anything he can’t do? His slow, thick nasal drone makes every word that comes from his lips a welcome surprise. THIS MUST BE THE PLACE is a truly strange, hypnotically entertaining film with that rarity- a great third act that works its magic perfectly.
. Just see it. You will be delighted!
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