17 December 2000 | burneyfan
SPOILER: After the ecstatic reviews it received in the press, I found this film
disappointing. I can only imagine that the critics were being kind to an
ill, old man of 82 and overly respectful of the reputation of a once
great film director. Visually it is very attractive with beautiful shots of a lakeside
village and very atmospheric and poetic shots of alleyways and streets
in rain and mist. But when it comes to the actions and motivations of
the people in the film it is a let-down. I like to be able to believe in
and identify with the characters in a film and I couldn't do that here.
There are four stories in the film and I will mention only two - the two
that seem to me the most trite and pointless.
The first story stars two extremely good-looking newcomers to the screen
(Kim Rossi Stuart & Ines Sastre.) He stops his car to ask her the way to the nearest hotel, and because he
is so good-looking she gives him the name of her hotel. They see each
other during the day and when they retire to their rooms at night across
the landing from each other, she lies awake waiting for the knock on the
door that never comes. In the morning she leaves early without seeing
him. It is two years before they see each other again and this time
their relationship progresses a little further - they get to be naked on
the bed together. But he behaves in a very odd way indeed; for some five
minutes he runs his hands over her body within a millimetre of her skin
but without actually touching her. What she thinks is going on as she
lies there passively, feeling nothing, is anybody's guess. Then after
five minutes, still without having touched her, he gets up abruptly and
without speaking a word leaves. Is that the action of a sane man? You
wonder why he bothered to take his clothes off if he intended to do so
little. She, presumably feeling hurt and frustrated, rushes to the
window to see him walking off into the distance. They give each other a
feeble wave. End of story. John Malkovich's deep lugubrious voice-over
tells us that he behaved in this way either because of folly or pride.
Well it was certainly folly - and certainly unbelievable. Or could it
have been impotence? Could this story be saying something about the
impotence of an old man?
In another segment of the film, Malkovich's character is attracted to a
young woman (Sophia Marceau) he sees in a shop window. He can't take his
eyes off her and just stands there entranced. She reacts in the same
way. He goes into the shop and their silent fascination continues. I
felt uncomfortable for both of them. Was something momentous about to
happen? It would seem so and our interest is awakened, our expectations
aroused. But no; we are just being lead up the garden path to nowhere.
He sits outside and eventually she joins him. She tells him only one
thing about herself, that she has murdered her father by stabbing him
twelve times. Malkovich shows no surprise and the fact seems irrelevant.
They then go to her place and they have sex. But this is not the
beginning of some deep, meaningful relationship as the earlier
enchantment would lead us to suppose. Oh no. When he's had his sex he's
had enough and like the previous male protagonist, he just walks away.
Another wretched piece of behaviour and