Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Bigger Splash

Based on the novel by Jean-Emmanuel Conil under the Alain Page pseudonym and the 1969 film La Piscine (The Swimming Pool) by Jacques Deray and co-written with Jean-Claude Carriere, A Bigger Splash is the story of a rock singer and her filmmaker boyfriend who get an unexpected visit from a former lover and his newly-discovered daughter. Directed by Luca Guadagnino and screenplay by David Kajaganich, the film is an exploration of temptation and desires during a vacation holiday at the Italian island of Pantelleria. Starring Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson, Lily McMenamy, and Aurore Clement. A Bigger Splash is an evocative yet eerie film from Luca Guadagnino.

Following the aftermath of a concert tour and throat surgery, the film follows a rock singer who takes on a holiday to rest her voice where she’s joined by her documentary filmmaker boyfriend where their little holiday is disrupted by the arrival of her former lover and his daughter, whom he had just discovered,. During this time of relaxation at Pantelleria, temptations and other vices come into play as a woman finds herself not just being pursued but also being pulled into places she didn’t want to go into. David Kajaganich’s screenplay isn’t about a time of vacation being disrupted but also people being forced to look back as well. For the singer Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton), she is exhausted as she rarely talks in order to rest her voice as all she wants to do is relax and spend her time with Paul De Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts) who is a documentary filmmaker she met years ago during a profile for her producer/then-lover Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes).

When Hawkes called one day during the vacation announcing he’s coming, he arrives with Penelope Lanier (Dakota Johnson) who is revealed to be his illegitimate daughter that is on board just to know more about him and what he does. The atmosphere of the holiday becomes more troubling as Hawkes’ very lively persona and his penchant for decadence doesn’t sit with De Smedt who is a recovering alcoholic/drug addict. Even Marianne becomes a bit overwhelmed by Hawkes yet still has some feelings for him as the vacation becomes tumultuous. Adding to this already troubled pot is Penelope as she is this quiet observer that doesn’t say a lot but manages to do things that would just escalate as she eyes De Smedt. The script would also have flashbacks that relate to Hawkes’ relationship with Lane but also how it fell apart which play into Lane’s own resistance towards him as she is very loyal to De Smedt.

Luca Guadagnino’s direction is definitely intoxicating and grand not just for the location but also for how it can turn intense due to the things that are happening. Shot on location at Pantelleria with some of it shot in New York and a concert scene shot at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Guadagnino creates a film that has this idyllic tone early in the film once it is about De Smedt and Lane having their holiday whether it’s sunbathing in the mud or having sex in their swimming pool. There is something simple in the way Guadagnino shoots everything in terms of the compositions whether it’s the wide and medium shots or in the close-ups. When Harry and Penelope arrive, the film becomes looser but also unpredictable where Harry kind of drives everything whether it’s taking Marianne, Paul, and Penelope to this restaurant that is kind of remote to dancing in front of guests at Marianne’s home to the Rolling Stones. The flashback scenes are straightforward to play into not just Marianne’s relationship with Harry and how decadent it was but also how she met Paul. Even in how it would create elements of resentment and such into all of those involved with the exception of Penelope.

The film’s second half is definitely eerie where it doesn’t just play into Penelope getting into everyone’s skin as she would try and seduce Paul during a scene near some rocky beaches. It also play into the dramatic tension that is emerging where it would come to ahead in the third act as it’s not just about some revelations relating to Penelope but also into all of the chaos that has emerged upon Hawkes’ arrival to Pantelleria. Especially where Marianne’s world is thrown into absolute chaos which threatens everything including her career and personal life. Overall, Guadagnino creates a provocative yet rapturous film about a rock singer’s vacation shattered by the visit of a former lover and his daughter.

Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for many of the exterior settings as well as the scenes set at night where it favors something more real rather than something that is more artificial. Editor Walter Fasano does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with some jump-cuts and other stylish cuts. Production designer Maria Djurkovic, with set decorator Tatiana Macdonald and supervising art director Zsuzsa Kismarty-Lechner, does fantastic work with the interior settings of the house as well as the look of the remote restaurant the characters go into.

Costume designer Giulia Piersanti does nice work with the clothes from what the women wear such as the more casual stylish look of Marianne to the more youthful look of Penelope. Sound editor Emanuela di Giunta and production sound mixer Yves-Marie Omnes do superb work with the sound as it play into the natural atmosphere of the locations as well as the way music is sound in and out of a room. Music supervisor Robin Urdang creates an incredible soundtrack that features an array of different music including songs by the Rolling Stones, Harry Nilsson, a few originals sung by Swinton, and St Vincent doing a cover of the Rolling Stones’ Emotional Rescue as well as some music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and the German group Popol Vuh.

The casting by Avy Kaufman and Stella Savino is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Elena Bucci as the housemaid Clara, Corrado Guzzanti as a local police investigator, Lily McMenamy as a young woman who joins the gang for sightseeing in Sylvie, and Aurore Clement as a friend of Harry in Mirielle who also goes sightseeing with Sylvie as her companion. Dakota Johnson is fantastic as Penelope Lanier as a young woman who is revealed to be Harry’s daughter as she observes everything that is happening around her while trying to seduce Paul as it’s a very quiet yet eerie performance filled with ambiguity. Matthias Schoenaerts is amazing as Paul De Smedt as a documentary filmmaker and Marianne’s boyfriend who knows Harry as he struggles with Harry’s presence as well as dealing with Penelope as he tries to maintain his sobriety and Marianne’s well-being.

Tilda Swinton is sensational as Marianne as she is seen in flashbacks as a wild and revered rock singer who has a lot of talent and such while the scenes in Pantelleria has her be restrained and trying not to say much yet sounds hoarse whenever she’s talking as she has a hard time dealing with everything around her. Finally, there’s Ralph Fiennes in an outstanding performance as Harry Hawkes as it is a performance that is just full of energy and a sense of danger where Fiennes definitely loosens up in a lot of ways while making a moment where he dances to the Rolling Stones into something that has to be seen.

A Bigger Splash is a spectacular film from Luca Guadagnino as it features an incredible cast in Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Dakota Johnson. Along with some beautiful technical work including its gorgeous location and a fun soundtrack, the film is definitely an intriguing drama that doesn’t play things safely while exploring ideas of temptation and living in the moment. In the end, A Bigger Splash is a tremendous film from Luca Guadagnino.

Luca Guadagnino Films: (The Protagonists) - (Tilda Swinton: The Love Factory) - (Mundo civilzado) - (Cuoco contadino) - (Melissa P.) - (The Love Factory No. 3 Pippo Delbono - Bisogna morire) - I Am Love - (Bertolucci on Bertolucci) - Call Me By Your Name - Suspiria (2018 film) - The Staggering Girl - (Fiori, Fiori, Fiori) – (Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams) – (We Are Who We Are (2020 TV series)) – Bones & All – (Challengers (2023 film))

© thevoid99 2017


Brittani Burnham said...

I liked this too, but I had a huge issue with Dakota Johnson's character. She was ridiculous and there's no way Johnson passes for a 17 year old. I rolled my eyes so hard at that.

thevoid99 said...

I agree with you on that which is the one big flaw of the film. I didn't buy that she was 17 either.