20 January 2011 | rooprect
Misleading DVD package but very nice movie nonetheless
Pay no attention to the sensational marketing on the back of the DVD declaring this to be a "kooky" "romantic comedy" "funnier than Police Academy 17!" (well OK, I made up that last one) I was expecting some big belly laughs, and after the first half hour without even cracking a smile, I started to feel disappointed. But that's when I realized that this is not really a comedy and it shouldn't be approached as such. True, there are some bizarre characters and weird situations like a guy getting accused of infidelity because he happens to be zipping up his fly at an inopportune moment (after taking a pee), but comedy is not the heart of this film; poetry is. The vibe the director achieved here reminds me of Bertolucci's "Stealing Beauty", Stillman's "Barcelona" or maybe the more recent "L'auberge espagnole" but with older characters. It's a very European story--and by that I mean the characters are extremely diverse and cosmopolitan, and the scenery plays a key role--about a bunch of people just being normal, or as normal as they can be under the circumstances.
There aren't a lot of wild plot twists, no real action, and no melodramatic romances like you might expect from Hollywood. As best as I can describe it, this is a movie about real life set in an unreal setting (a dreamy island off the coast of Spain).
The story is about a dead composer and how his legacy impacts the people who adored him. Here is where, I believe, we get the title of the film "Four Last Songs". In real life, composer Richard Strauss wrote 4 songs (Spring, September, Sleep, Sunset) in his last year before he died, and these songs prophetically consider the subject of death, yet not with dread & fear but with calm & serenity. The movie has nothing about Strauss but instead invents a fictional composer whose works are to be performed in a tribute concert. The "Four Last Songs" in the movie could relate to the 4 subplots: a young woman discovering her life (Spring), a mature couple dealing with their insecurities (September), a man who seems to be courting death (Sleep) and an unfinished romance left in the wake of the composer's passing (Sunset). The music seems to unify these 4 subplots into a cohesive tale, and that's how we get "Four Last Songs".
This is of course, just my personal interpretation. But the point that I'm trying to make is that this is a film that can be approached at different levels, and its poetic nature lends itself to many possible meanings. In that sense, it ain't no hilarious romantic comedy. If, right from the get-go, you realize that it's a very symbolic & artistic story I think you'll enjoy it so much more.