Io e te / Me and You (2012)

18 08 2013

There’s something to be said about the fact that Bernardo Bertolucci is still trying. Hell, it’s really the best thing he has going for him at this point. This isn’t a terrible film by any stretch, but it does feel all a little too familiar and safe. Yes, safe. Sure, the transgressive Bertolucci stuff is still there (plenty of incestuous overtones!) and everything still looks good, but it feels a little bit uninspired. He manages to salvage something unique out of the setup in the final act. It’s a nice movie, but it seems to be lacking in energy. That could be an unfair description, and perhaps a bias towards Bertolucci’s own age. He seems conscious of this, though, because the film’s greatest strength is that one can see him trying to recapture something youthful and energetic.

1

Lorenzo is an alienated teenager who lives alone with his mother. Their relationship is composed of either arguments or bizarre sexual questions from Lorenzo. He gives his mother the impression that he’s excited for an upcoming ski trip put on by the school. It’s a front, though, and he takes the money she gives him and decides to hide in the basement for a week. His half-sister, Olivia, unexpectedly turns up and to keep her quiet, Lorenzo is forced to take care of her.

3

It’s entirely possible that I’ve simply seen too many coming of age films about ostracized teens, but the scenes that are focused entirely on Lorenzo seem to be missing something. It’s easy to feel for him on a superficial level, but we’re given few details beyond a potential Oedipus complex. It seems more like lazy writing than opaque characterization when viewing the film, but in retrospect, I’m glad Bertolucci didn’t bother to flesh the character out with scenes of him having no friends and being sad. Still, the film awkwardly starts with him listening to The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” which seems too on the nose. Maybe that’s the point.

4

When Lorenzo finally begins his week-long hideout, things still seem a little bit forced. Lorenzo’s lying resonates in a weird way, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that his escapade seems so remarkably stupid. Admittedly, he is only fourteen years old and I myself did equally stupid things at that age. I mean more that the fact that we have to follow him around seems stupid, and uninteresting. There’s a little bit about his appreciation of insects, which seems like the easiest “introverted” passion for a teenager to have. Unlike Antoine in The 400 Blows, Lorenzo actually has hope because he has a passion. The heartbreak in that film (which Bertolucci makes a nod to in the film’s end) is that life is so overwhelming. Lorenzo’s life, in comparison, is remarkably easy. He might have more in common with the gang from The Bling Ring.

5

Bertolucci does capture something vital and worthwhile towards the film’s final act. Basically, as soon as Olivia shows up things begin to be interesting, albeit not entirely unique, even for Bertolucci himself. The drug addiction doesn’t feel real as much as it feels like another bullet point in how to make a transgressive art film. Even with Olivia’s breakdown, it never really feels harrowing, but I think that’s more of a positive. It’s not a film about addiction, anyway. Hell, I don’t even know what it really wants to be about, but I hope it’s something about Olivia and Lorenzo.

6

The best moments are the ones where the film tries to detach itself from time. Olivia and Lorenzo share a dance and it’s weirdly beautiful. When the movie is the two of them just hanging around, it manages to catch a groove. Again, it’s nothing new for Bertolucci. There’s shades of the brilliant Gino Paoli slow dance from Before the Revolution and the early scenes from La Luna. The film feels like its maker trying to hold on to some semblance of youth, and it’s poignant in that respect. On the other hand, this sort of thing has been done better before, and by Bertolucci himself.

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