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Luís Miguel Cintra,
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The comfortable daily routines of aging Parisian actor Gilbert Valence, 76, are suddenly shaken when he learns that his wife, daughter, and son-in-law have been killed in a car crash. Having to take care of his now-orphaned grandson, he struggles to go on with his lifelong acting career like he's used to. But the roles he is offered -- a flashy TV show and a hectic last-minute replacement in an English-language film of Joyce's Ulysses -- finally convince him that it's time to retire. Written by
I like to think of myself as a movie buff, but I'm not. I am a novice, in training. I had never heard of Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira but it turns out he is 93 years old, still active and has therefore been making films for most of the era of "talkie" cinema. So, "I'm Going Home". This is a film I would never have dreamed of going to see. I ended up at the cinema by default without realising that it would change my view on a lot of things and make me feel better without realising that I felt down.
I had no idea or preconceptions of what this would be like. The only person I was familiar with was John Malkovich (sp?) I'll get back to him later.
The film starts off with a play, and it's a play I would love to see. The audience (in the film) watching the play are enjoying it immensely and it is obvious that Gilbert Valence (the wonderful wonderful Michel Piccoli)is a well known stage actor, much loved by his French audience. Valence comes off stage to huge applause but then receives the worst kind of life-changing news.
Cuts to "some time later" We hear no dialogue from him until we see him in his next play. This is clever- unless he is on the stage, we only see him from an outsider's point of view. He is in a bar and we can see him talking and ordering but all we can hear is the white noise of Parisian traffic. And then vice-versa so for a while, he is always on the other side of the window to us.
He meets his agent who is a partonising, unsympathetic character. Valence doesn't understand why he keeps offering him roles he would never take. Valence feels out of sorts with society. His world has been reduced and he is surrounded by people he doesn't understand and whom in turn, don't understand him.
Enter John Malkovich. He is John Crawford a director of a Franco/American production company who desperately needs Valence to be in his new version of Ulysses (James Joyce you idiot!) (no, I've never read it either). His opening speech to Valence is a text book example of tactlessness and I wonder if M. de Oliveria has often found himself on the receivng end of the same, ageist treatment
My favourite scene is when Valence is trying his absolute hardest to get the part right. Malkovich is trying to keep his cool but is obviously getting infuriated with this poor frenchman who is trying to read an English-speaking part in an Irish accent (which he has three days to prepare for). The scene consists of a close-up of Malkovich's face as he winces and squirms, looks hopeful then despairs again, whilst we listen to the sound of Valence doing his best in a part that he wasn't born to play.
The film is full of so much apart from the story line and gives much food for thought on leaving the cinema. Is he really so out of sorts with the world? How can he be, when his grandson adores him completely and young girls find him very attractive (a fact that he finds hard to deal with)? Surely it is the bad side of modern society that he can't cope with in the same way the rest of us can barely cope either?
There are also shots in this picture that would make Martin Scorsese drool. I won't bother describing any because that never works, but if I noticed them, they must be good!
I probably make it sound like a melancholy old-duffer movie but it isn't. The dialogue is sharp and often very-funny, there are nice little sub-plots and elegant touches such as people drinking in sync with each other except for Valence. Subtle stuff that you have to watch out for.
I won't give the (abrupt, but for a reason) ending away but the way the title is used- it's something we can all relate to and wish we done ourselves!
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