By Robin E. Simmons
All the elements of a classic road movie are infused in Dino Risi’s best film, also known as THE EASY LIFE. Now more than 50 years old, the beloved Italian film follows ageing playboy Bruno (Vittorio Gassman) and young, straight-laced law-student Roberto (Jean-Louis Trintignant), two unlikely men – strangers when they meet — on a kind of random holiday from Rome to Tuscany and the Riviera. Hyper extrovert Bruno has taken it upon himself to introduce introvert Roberto to the hedonistic lifestyle in this melancholic Italian comedy that is in many ways a moral fable that is open for personal interpretation about the consequences and dangers of “the good life” – and idea Fellini mined in LA DOCLE VITA. You may recognize bits and pieces of later road movies from SIDEWAYS to THELMA & LOUISE and even EASY RIDER among many memorable moments embedded in Risi’s fast-moving film.
As driver Bruno speeds down the highway in his convertible Lancia Aurelia, tail-gating, beeping his annoying musical horn and dangerously passing (one meaning of the Italian title), we realize the trip is more about going nowhere fast than reaching a real destination. For fast-talking, glib Bruno, life is beginning to slip away. Previous relationships have been severed. His ex-wife and pretty adult daughter no longer share a bond, or even affection, for Bruno. We see this sadness when he drops in for a visit dragging the unwitting Roberto with him.
While driving, Bruno says, “Loneliness, inability to communicate — that stuff’s all the rage now.” He even references Michelangelo Antonioni’s movie L’ECLISSE as an example of this theme and jokingly says it put him to sleep. So obviously Bruno doesn’t get that he is a prime example of a driven, pleasure seeker living an otherwise empty life. We go along for the ride, laughing along the way, but as the bittersweet nature of the missed opportunities of a life lived and one about to be sink in, we cannot so easily dismissed the indelible climax as it unexpectedly reveals itself. Meaning can be ephemeral in movies and in actual life, but sometimes that very ambiguity is what makes it so potent.
Generous extras in the Blu-ray/DVD combo package include a new introduction by director Alexander Payne, new interviews with screenwriter Ettore Scola, interviews from 2004 with director Risi, introduction by actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, “A Beautiful Vacation” documentary on Risi, excerpts from a 2012 documentary that returns to the Castiglioncello beach locations and more. Criterion. Blu-ray.
THE END OF TIME
Peter Mettler has a knack for films that meander along a poetic, philosophical thread (see his 1994 PICTURE OF LIGHT) that may or may not connect with an audience jaded by big action or riveting melodrama. But there is something to be said for thoughtful films that create another kind of reality with the flow of carefully constructed images and words that induce a hypnotic spell and even moments of cinematic transcendence. Mettler’s 2012 film looks at facets of how we perceive the passing of time is at times brilliant and mesmerizing. There are also moments that could have been cut to sustain the mysterious, often sensual tone established. I loved the slow flow of glowing lava and the visit to the Hadron Collider and the trippy mandala patterns, but I wanted to know more about the mystery, beginning and end of time itself along with the striking images of the tree under which Buddha was enlightened and the deterioration of Detroit. First Run Features. DVD.
THE LUNCHBOX*, BLUMENTHAL*, BREATHE IN*, THE UNKNOWN KNOWN, ROB THE MOB, THE FACE OF LOVE, ON MY WAY*, CESAR CHAVEZ, JEWISH CARDINAL*, RIO 2, GOD’S NOT DEAD, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL*, MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN, BAD WORDS*, SABOTAGE, NOAH*, DRAFT DAY, OCULUS, DIVERGENT, NOAH*, CAPTIAN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER*, UNDER THE SKIN*, THE RAID 2, NON-STOP. Check Flixster.com for time and location. * Recommended.
NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Ben Stiller stars in and directs this beautiful looking and sweet reboot of James Thurber’s slender 1939 “New Yorker” story about a meek man who daydreams big adventures didn’t connect with a wide audience but it is never-the-less a bold and satisfying, if light weight, pleasure. Extras include deleted scenes. 20th Century Fox. Blu-ray.