keeping it reel

music + movies + fashion

Film | Elegy

leave a comment »


Elegy is a brooding, poetic look into a man coming to terms with his autumn years and about to discover the fragility beneath his virility. The plot’s a little insubstantial, but the movie is redeemed by stellar performances from its leads — Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz.

David Kapeesh (Kingsley) is a 50-something cultural critic and academic who’s starting to reckon with getting old. He emancipated himself from marriage early on to lead an independent, epicurean life in a stunning New York apartment. Everything is as he wants; he’s playing it all very cool. That is until he catches the eye of his student, Conseula Castillo (Cruz).

The two get it on. Kapeesh ought to be delighted but the whole relationship and 30-year age difference turn him into an insecure mess. Does she really love him? How could she really love him? Why is he there at all? And all of this takes place in the context of his own uncertainty around his future.

The movie’s title is true to form — it’s a serious, reflective, elegiac piece about death and bidding adieu. It’s very much a conversation about men growing older and the loss it can represent. It’s not all doom and gloom melancholy thought. Kingsley’s strident character and his Seinfeld-esque discussions with George O’Hearn (Kapeesh’s colleague, played by Denis Hopper) fill the movie with the black comedy needed to pull you through.

And thank god because not a great deal happens. It feels like something is missing. For me, it truly felt like one long trailer for another movie. It’s very elliptical and the plot is a little weak. There were also times I felt it lacked consistency. For example, Kapeesh occasionally narrates the story but that narration gets forgotten until it gets picked up again.

But Elegy is a beautifully shot film. It’s like a collection of full-page magazine ads in a fashion or interior design magazine (again, the elliptical narrative). They could almost be wearing Rolex’s or using Mont Blanc pens in each scene. The soundtrack is also super evocative, with Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes used throughout. A very minimalist aesthetic. I loved that aspect of it.

I also loved Cruz and Kinsgley. I’ve gained a lot of respect for the both of them in recent times, all the more because of this movie. It’s their performances and the strength of their characters that really kept me awake. Denis Hopper puts in a good show (and quite apt too given his iconic 60s Easyrider heritage). Both Hopper and Kingsley are sexy beasts — so much charisma. There’s also a very surprise performance from Deborah Harry … keep a lookout because I missed it.

Despite its faults, Elegy is worth watching. It’s a glimpse into the power of lust to to unravel us, as well as the experience of ageing manhood. Grumpy Old Men for the skivvy-wearing pomo baby boomer.

Elegy is directed by Isabel Coixet and based on the novel “The Dying Animal” by Philip Roth. It’s the third in a series of books portraying the character David Kapeesh (the other two are “The Breast” and “The Professor of Desire”).


Written by Darren Smith

17 May 2009 at 7:20 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: