Saturday, September 28, 2013

And While We Were Here

AND WHILE WE WERE HERE         C                    
USA  (83 mi)  2012  d:  Kat Coiro

Apparently this film went through several transformations, as many of the reviews indicate the film was originally screened at Tribeca in Black and White, but was later released in vivid color.  Written and directed by Kat Coiro, this is what is commonly called a woman’s picture, where the disintegration of a marriage unravels in the picturesque location of Naples in Italy, all seen through the eyes of the wife Jane (Kate Bosworth), who spends her time listening to audio tapes she made interviewing her British grandmother (the voice of Claire Bloom) before she died, listening to her talk about how she survived two world wars.  In this manner, she completely avoids her husband Leonard (Iddo Goldberg), a studious introvert who professionally plays the viola for an orchestra that is spending two weeks touring in Naples.  Fortunately, this leaves him conveniently out of the picture for most of the film, where they only see one another in passing, often wordlessly, like ships passing in the night.  This leaves Jane plenty of free time, which she spends sightseeing.  If this reminds you of another film, it bears a great similarity to Rossellini’s Journey to Italy  (1954) about another bored couple, Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders, with their marriage similarly on the rocks.  While they unfold differently, Rossellini provides a historical travelogue of the Italian cities of Naples, Capri, and Pompeii while also accentuating the spaces that exist between couples, but both films provide a virtual no man’s zone where neither care to venture, leaving instead a cavernous emptiness of unspoken thoughts.  While this appears to be a studied examination of the nuances of marriage, unlike Bergman’s magnificent effort, none of the performances show even the slightest degree of nuance, where the biggest letdown is the utter lack of chemistry between characters, where none of them can act a whit. 

While Jane is attempting to write a book about her grandmother, she hasn’t figured out yet how to present the material, how to see the war from an entirely new vantage point, so she goes on long sightseeing walks, eventually taking a ferry to nearby Ischia island, one of many islands in the Gulf of Naples.  The on site locations are superb, as Jane runs into a young 19-year old American, Caleb (Jamie Blackley), who immediately starts paying Jane the kind of attention that the more dispassionate Leonard is simply incapable of providing.  The youthful Caleb is much more fun and playful, but there’s more than a decade’s worth of difference between them, and Caleb is still just a kid.  Still, all attempts to find passion in her marriage is met with resistance, as Leonard simply avoids the subject by drowning himself in his work.  While they remain overly polite, what sex they have is dreadfully dull and boring, especially when there’s a young prospective lover waiting impatiently in the wings.  Jane decides to take the plunge, turning this into a fairly stereotypical midlife crisis, where the cloistered and heavily repressed middle aged wife suddenly lets her hair down (literally), where the director fills the screen with a montage of idyllic sunsets over the beach, wine drenched romantic meals overlooking the glistening bay, pictures of the lovers embraced, waking up in each other’s arms by morning, and then conveniently arriving back at her hotel just as her husband is leaving for work. 

When Jane insists they need to talk, Leonard politely avoids all confrontation, but she asserts he’s lost all curiosity about her and no longer “sees” her anymore, as if she’s become the invisible woman.  What we do learn, however, is that they’re both traumatized after losing a baby, as neither has fully recovered afterwards, where despite the love that remains, the intimacy has simply disappeared.  The film never really takes the husband’s concerns seriously, as all efforts to communicate are doomed from the cold and sterile opening images.  In stark contrast, it’s a sunny and picturesque, yet somewhat over-romanticized affair in Italy, where typically if it’s a man having the affair he’s considered contemptible, while if it’s a woman, it supposedly opens the doors to an entirely new world.  Despite dominating the screen time and receiving the upper hand in nearly every verbal encounter, the film interestingly withholds sympathy for Jane throughout, as even though the affair feels badly needed, one never takes it too seriously.  Any offerings of hope, however, get a dose of cold water at the end, as over the end credits Jennifer Warnes rapturously sings Leonard Cohen’s perpetually downbeat “Famous Blue Raincoat” JENNIFER WARNES ~ Famous Blue Raincoat ~ - YouTube (5:34).

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