Yes, This Must Be the Place, Drive going nowhere
Cheesy wannabe ‘80s film, or a movie with ‘80s images but totally fresh and modern? It’s not a hard choice between the Cannes official selections Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Rifn, and This Must Be the Place by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino.
Sorrentino follows up his wildly successful Il Divo (2008), a political movie that won him the Palme d’Or and the Jury Prize here at Cannes, and an Oscar nomination too.
This Must be the Place starts off in Dublin, where Cheyenne, a successful ‘80s goth pop star, lives in a large house with his wife (Frances Mc Dormand).
Cheyenne, played deftly by Sean Penn, cuts an impressive yet scary figure. He’s in his late 40s and still wears teased hair, heavy makeup and red lipstick, à la Robert Smith from UK band The Cure.
He speaks slowly, almost liike a child, and walks with a shuffle - leading the movie viewer to wonder if this is the aftereffect of a drug overdose. One telling line in the film is when Cheyenne comments that he’s done every sort of drug, but never smoked a cigarette.
One cigarette-smoking character looks him straight in the eye and tells him it is because cigarettes are for adults, and he never grew up.
One day, Cheyenne receives a call from New York. His father, an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor, has died. He hasn’t spoken to him in 30 years, but reads his diaries, that reveal that his father was obsessed with killing a Nazi prison guard who had tormented him.
He embarks on a cross-country tour, searching for the man. Along the way he comes across a bunch of interesting characters, all in an effort to find out more information about the Nazi.
Cheyenne denies to his wife he is finding himself. “I’m in New Mexico, not India,” he says. Ultimately he finds the truth he was looking for.
This is Penn’s second entry at Cannes - he earns his money in this film, while in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, he stares at the sky for five minutes with an anguished face.
This touching film was made for Penn, who was president of the jury at Cannes in 2008 and met Sorrentino. Penn enjoyed Il Divo and Sorrentino asked if he would work with him.
This very American movie received tepid applause, but don’t let that stop you from watching it. It is beautifully crafted.
From the first bar of the synthesizer-heavy opening song, moviegoers will know that Drive, directed by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, will be a cheesy testosterone-fuelled romp with fast cars.
Driver (hello, could you choose a name less generic than this?) acted by a non-emotive, flat Ryan Gosling, does just that. He drives. In Los Angeles.
He meets his neighbour, Irene, played by Carey Mulligan, who also turns out a wooden flat performance. Mulligan, nominated for an Oscar in An Education (2009) won’t garner any awards here. As the film plays out, you realise there’s not much to work with in the script.
Irene’s husband gets out of prison. And while Irene and Driver like each other, things don’t go any further. Of course, hubby is in trouble and needs Driver, a man’s man, to help bail him out. No dice, as the blood flows. Macho Driver could save the day with his amazing driving skills, but by this point, we don’t even care.
Even the faux-80s neon pink typeface in the credits tells you this film will be cheesy.
These two foreign-directed American films in competition couldn’t be more different.