Saturday, May 29, 2010
'Elegy' is a somber, slow, and gratifying dramatic piece from Spanish director Isabel Coixet ('My Life Without Me,' 'The Secret Life of Words'). It stars Ben Kingsley as David, a professor who has failed to make any sort of commitments besides his academic excellence. He has left his wife, has an on and off 20-year affair with another woman (Patricia Clarkson), and is now involved with one of his students (Penelope Cruz). David does not deny his problems and he's certainly not proud of his actions. But he knows he's getting older, and he sees no other solution to satisfaction than following his passions. The film in a way is about his maturing process as he struggles through his different relationships. This is a movie that has emotional power. But to me the real reason to see pay it a visit is because of the acting. This is the sort of movie where great actors can show why they are indeed great. There are no complicated plot elements or special effects to get in their way. Kingsley and Cruz, having never worked together before, display fantastic chemistry, while the supporting players (Clarkson, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Saarsgard) add a lot to what's otherwise a pretty small picture. 'Elegy' spends its final twenty minutes on a particularly melancholy note, and in that time sews up David's inner growth. The movie is a sad one all the way to the end, and so I find it fitting to end this with the tragic news of Dennis Hopper's death. In the movie he passes away, but the thing about the movies is that as sad as loss of life may be, we know it's not actually real. Now it is real, as Hopper, at 74, passed away yesterday. Not very old, considering he was making movies with James Dean back in the 50's. Of all the great movies Hopper made, I'll always remember him most as the villain in 'Speed.' When I first saw it when I was, I don't know, six or seven, his presence was what stuck with me the most-despite the fact that at that age, all I ever cared about was the hero.