Set in France during the mid-1970s, Vanessa, a former dancer, and her husband Roland, an American writer, travel the country together. They seem to be growing apart, but when they linger in one quiet, seaside town they begin to draw close to some of its more vibrant inhabitants, such as a local bar/café-keeper and a hotel owner.Written by
Filmed entirely on the small island of Gozo, which is part of the Mediterranean country of Malta. See more »
When Vanessa is in the bathtub as Roland describes what is happening in the neighboring room, Vanessa is shown with the water level just above her nipples, then shown resting her head on the edge of the tub and sinking a little lower. A few seconds later, during which her head has not moved, the water level is a couple inches below her nipples when it ought to be an inch or so above them. See more »
Do you see that fisherman? He goes out every day, comes back every night. Hardly catches any fish. What keeps him from going insane? From being so tired of it all? What is it we don't know?
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The film opens with the early 1970's Universal Pictures logo. See more »
Every year I see any number of truly great films but there is usually one that hits me on different level to other great films altogether,a deeper level.In 2013 it was Ridley Scott's "The Counsellor",last year it was Jonathan Glazer's "Under The Skin".This year it is Angelina Jolie Pitt's deeply unusual,highly erotic and incredibly well realised "By The Sea".
First things first,the talk of it being a flop.It was never going to be a hit,never.It is strange,unconventional,very dark and slowly paced.It makes no concession to the filmmaking trends of today.Second thing,the accusations of it being a vanity project.Jolie's own character is very dislikable and says and does some horrible things in the film.Also,her age and her aging beauty (as in she lets the camera show the age in her face here) play a role in the film and Jolie isn't afraid to show that whereas Melanie Laurent's character is younger,more vivacious and more innocent.It absolutely is not a vanity project.
What the film is is a work of art and a work of true directorial vision.It is a fascinating exploration of relationships,grief,voyeurism and sexual mores.It goes places you don't expect it to go to.It is both incredibly dark (though hopeful) and incredibly provocative.In terms of the erotic aspect of the story,the way Jolie handles it is astounding.The voyeurism scenes are just stunningly shot and realised and the bathtub scene is one of the most powerful scenes I have seen in a film this year.Jolie could if she chose to pursue this subject matter in the future with her directorial work be an heiress to the great provocateurs like Lynch,Kubrick,Cronenberg and Adrian Lyne.Her command of mood and tone (the film is basically a tone poem) is superb.It is at different times reminiscent of Bertolucci,Kubrick and Pinter yet is still its own hypnotic,fiercely original thing.It also has a wonderful vein of dark humour.
As for the performances,Pitt is outstanding in a tricky role and gives one of the best performances of his career.That chemistry between him and Jolie is still there as well,though used somewhat differently this time.Melanie Laurent,Mevil Poupaud and Niels Arestrup are superb in their great supporting roles.Jolie gives the best performance though.As an actress she tends to be at her best when she underplays.Her work here is incredibly subtle.It starts off as a very stylised performance with her very slow line delivery due to the narcoticized state her character spends a lot of the time in.She communicates so much by doing so little.You cannot take your eyes off her.It is also a very brave performance as her character is dislikeable and does some awful things in the film.She looks astounding in the film as well.The way Christian Berger (whose cinematography is the best I have seen in a film this year) captures her face is fascinating.It is the first time I have realised how strange (which I mean in a good way) and just how unique Jolie's beauty is and the way he captures the age on her face is just wonderful.
People may dismiss this review because of my respect for Jolie but I call a spade a spade and if the film was dreck I would say so.But it is not.It is stunning.The best film I have seen this year,it is exactly the type of unique,provocative,strange,uncompromising cinema that I love. 10/10
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