Cultural critic David Kepesh finds his life -- which he indicates is a state of "emancipated manhood" -- thrown into tragic disarray by Consuela Castillo, a well-mannered student who awakens a sense of sexual possessiveness in her teacher.
David Kepesh is growing old. He's a professor of literature, a student of American hedonism, and an amateur musician and photographer. When he finds a student attractive, Consuela, a 24-year-old Cuban, he sets out to seduce her. Along the way, he swims in deeper feelings, maybe he's drowning. She presses him to sort out what he wants from her, and a relationship develops. They talk of traveling. He confides in his friend, George, a poet long-married, who advises David to grow up and grow old. She invites him to meet her family. His own son, from a long-ended marriage, confronts him. Is the elegy for lost relationships, lost possibilities, beauty and time passing, or failure of nerve? Written by
David tells Consuela that she looks like Goya's Maja Desnuda. Penélope Cruz (who plays Consuela) plays Pepita Tudó in Volavérunt (1999), possibly a model for the Maja Desnuda. See more »
I think it was Betty Davis who said old age is not for sissies. But it was Tolstoy who said the biggest surprise in a man's life is old age. Old age sneaks up on you, and the next thing you know you're asking yourself, I'm asking myself, why can't an old man act his real age? How is it possible for me to still be involved in the carnal aspects of the human comedy? Because, in my head, nothing has changed.
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A Moving Ben Kingsley Conduit Stolen By Penelope Cruz
Ben Kingsley, who is capable of playing practically any role, seems to be remarkable at playing men who are very smart but their thoughts are a lot less than pure most of the time. Elegy is a film that could easily have been written with him in mind, though by the time it's over, Penelope Cruz has stolen away with it, and changed Kingsley's character in the progression. It's properly made.
Kingsley seems to be just about the entire movie as a self-seeking book critic. He was married in the past, and has a well-to-do son. He got divorced years ago and has a sex pal relationship with another woman who he sees rarely, played by Patricia Clarkson, who I can totally see having the capability for no-strings occasional liaisons. He is frequently attracted to his female students, and sometimes has sex with some of them. Still, to steer clear of trouble, he always waits until they graduate. With one of these women, Penelope Cruz's character, a more profound relationship grows.
But Kingsley has never matured in this manner. He is preoccupied with jealousy, certain that she is seeing someone else, someone younger, more handsome and virile. He even shows up at a dance he knows she's attending, to check up on her. His doubt frustrates and deters her, because she cannot put up with not being trusted.
When the time comes, the movie makes a dramatic bend which surrounds all the deepest bona fide feelings of the story. And in these scenes, Cruz is peacefully compelling and dreadfully real. You come to appreciate why the director, Isabel Coixet, cast Cruz rather than a younger, authentically college-age actress. An actress necessitates wisdom and the familiarity of time to play these scenes, and Cruz must have both, especially now that I'm seeing her shortly after her incredible performance in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
That this nuanced drama with erudite cultural ambiance is not merely a self-indulgent male writer's wet dream about the horny scoundrel and the exquisite and charming Venus is a relief. That it sees Manhattan plainly as a location benefits this story because it is a place where we suppose things like this are liable to take place, not like the typical burgh where we live. Then there is Dennis Hopper as the old comrade with whom Kingsley has coffee and plays racquetball, who tries to bring wisdom to Kingsley's activities, but sees no light at the end of the tunnel. And Peter Sarsgaard as Kingsley's son, with problems of his own, and a father who has become not only a shame but an unrelated matter. But what the movie's not afraid to do is let you in on Kingsley's feelings after awhile. Who cares about all these things he should accept as responsibility when he's so immersed in love for this new, young person?
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