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 »
Beautiful women are invisible.
Invisible? What the hell does that mean? Invisible? They jump out at you. A beautiful woman, she stands out. She stands apart. You can't miss her.
But we never actually see the person. We see the beautiful shell. We're blocked by the beauty barrier. Yeah, we're so dazzled by the outside that we never make it inside.
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... and David Kepesh (Sir Ben Kingsley) knows it, as he quotes her in the beginning of "Elegy". Kepesh is no sissy, but old age isn't for him either. He's a professor who's had a "friendship with benefits" with a woman (Patricia Clarkson) for twenty years, as he begins a torrid affair with the beautiful Consuela (Penélope Cruz), thirty years younger than him. Consuela and David fall in love with each other, but harder than finding the right person is the fear of losing them, and they will find some obstacles to their relationship.
This is an adult film about love, fear of commitment/loss, and death. Isabel Coixet proves again to be the most exciting name to come from Spain since Pedro Almodóvar after "My Life Without Me", "The Secret Life of Words" and her segment "Bastille" from "Paris, je t'Aime", she delivers another mature, sensitive, and very peculiar film (her next project, "Map of Sounds of Tokyo", looks very promising as well). Sir Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson are exceptional as usual; Dennis Hopper, as Kingsley's best friend, gives his best performance in a long time (he has a fantastic scene with Kingsley and Deborah Harry, who plays his wife). Peter Sarsgaard is also pretty good as Kingsley's son, and although Cruz doesn't shine as much as in "Non Ti Muovere", "Volver" or "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", she fits the role and makes you believe any man would be easily infatuated and obsessed with her.
The ending might seem a little melodramatic at first, but it's both poignant and adequate. Although not a perfect film, "Elegy" is easily one of the most poetic, rewarding experiences you'll have this year. Don't miss it. 9/10.
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