Elsa y Fred (2005)
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"Elsa y Fred" is a sensitive romance in the third age, proving that it is never too late to love, and a great homage to Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita". The simple and beautiful story is supported by magnificent performances of Manuel Alexandre and China Portillo, and an effective screenplay that appropriately blends romance, drama and humor. A dear friend of mine recommended this movie and I would like to thank her advice. In the end, there is a wonderful message of hope and love - people should live and not be afraid of dying. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Elsa & Fred - Um Amor de Paixão" ("Elsa & Fred - A Love of Passion")
I don't know why "Elsa and Fred" took so long for this film to reach the U.S., but I finally saw it in Orange County, California, just last week. It's a warm and touching film largely due to the two main characters. Both of them (Elsa and Fred) are living alone in adjacent Madrid apartments. Fred is withdrawn and still getting used to being a widower. He is a very practical, straight-laced gentleman. In contrast, Elsa lives in a fantasy world conjured up by her dreams of someday wading in the Trevi Fountain in Rome ala Fellini's "La Dolci Vita." She a persistent liar, risk taker and bold adventuress. She gradually draws Fred out of his shell and into her world. Who says that there can't be romance after 70?!
The two actors who play Elsa and Fred are remarkable. Their dialogues and facial expressions give their characters real depth, tenderness and life. Their years as seniors gradually whither away in the film as they slowly fall in love and become "teenagers" again figuratively speaking. The theme of "Trevi Fountain" runs throughout the film from the beginning during the credits until the very end.
Yes, Americans can enjoy this foreign film. I certainly did!
Beware: you'll find yourself crying and smiling like an idiot throughout this beautiful story.
Is there anything I'd leave out of it? Not a single word, not a single take, nor a music note. The acting is top notch. I'd rather say "heavyweight". Maybe it is just that I haven't seen such performances in a long time.
This is a film to open your heart, no matter the age, to a reality few of us like to think about. Prepare yourself for a ride of joy and happiness in a world so full of trouble.
I know the United States will never watch an Argentine film and consider its cast seriously, but who knows? We've had Best Foreign Film nominations in the past. At her 83 years old, and gratefully for the ones who adore her, she is able to make at least one film per year. In this year's work, she plays Elsa, the leading woman of "Elsa & Fred".
The movie's title proposes a clichéd romantic comedy, coming from the United States, like, for example, "Alex & Emma", "The prince & me", you know The thing is it is from Argentina, and it has one element that separates it grandly from the titles I've mentioned; it comes by the side of age. Elsa and Fred (Manuel Alexandre) are really old persons, supposedly in their 70's, and they are falling in love as the youngsters are in the latter films.
It is important to say that if the movie had no image, and if the voices weren't so revealing, Elsa and Fred would be just like those youngsters. This is just because of the words they say, because of the way they speak, however their story is sad. Fred has recently lost his wife, and he is locked up in his apartment, that is just next to Elsa's. She has sons, grandsons, brothers, husbands, I don't know how many because she is a tricky woman, but director Marcos Carnevale and writing partner Marcela Guerty (writers of great Argentine shows like "22, El loco" and powerful movies like "El día que me amen") try to keep it as real as possible so we can believe we can find love again and again, no matter our age. It doesn't reach that much, though, and this and other stuff that are not worth mentioning make the film fall a little short from good.
What was amazing was to see the movie theater replete with old people; people as old as the film's main characters. And none of them was alone. What I'm trying to say is that the film achieved an objective in getting these couples to watch the movie. For their pleasure, there were lots of beautiful places in Carnevale's camera, and also incredible stars in the cast, including Roberto Carnaghi, who plays one of Elsa's sons and Federico Luppi, who appears late but amazes as always. He is just there for three minutes, three amazing minutes.
Ironically, because I said this could be an American film, the opening is undoubtedly at the level of one of those films; with beautiful breathtaking images, like in dreams, with water in the middle and blurry frames explained by Lito Vitale's unique music, in his unique language, which makes me wonder how come he never made music for films all around the world.
But in the end, it is China Zorrilla, whose mannerisms win the audiences' hearts, and whose grace is untouched, as if she was still a teenager in search of her first love.