J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, September 13, 2013

And While We Were Here: Now in Lifelike Color

The Camorra has not ruined all of Naples yet.  There are still some picturesque historic neighborhoods.  They will make a lovely backdrop for the scuttling of a marriage in Kat Coiro’s And While We Were Here (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Right, this movie is in color.  Most are these days, but if you caught AWWWH on the festival circuit, you saw it in an arresting black-and-white, intended to evoke the look and vibe of classic Italian Neo-Realist films.  However, it is standard procedure to shoot in color and convert to black-and-white after the fact (even the had to be B&W The Artist followed this practice), so it was no great technical feat to revert back to color for its theatrical release.  DVD consumers will have the ability to chose, but considering everything is digital these days, why not let the audience decide before each screening?  It would be a little William Castle-ish, but it would be a real novelty.

Regardless, sun-drenched Naples looks lovely in the colorful AWWWH (which also picked up an additional article along the way).  Leonard is a handsome and accomplished viola player who has come to Naples for a high profile concert engagement.  His somewhat younger wife Jane is beautiful, but that’s about it.  Some unspoken tragedy weighs heavily on their marriage, but on their first night in Naples they try to get in the romantic Italian spirit.  Unfortunately, the very next morning, Leonard the wet blanket insists on going to the rehearsals he has committed to attend, leaving Jane at loose ends.

She wanders the streets, listening to her grandmother’s lusty audio diaries that she will supposedly incorporate into some sort of vague writing project, until she encounters Caleb. He looks like a local beach bum, but he is actually an American tourist gone native.  Caleb immediately gets ideas about Jane, but she temporarily holds him at bay.  Nonetheless, it is only a matter of time before she indulges.

There are two long established cinematic clichés that stick out like sore thumbs in AWWWH.  While men who cheat in movies are invariably portrayed as lecherous heels, adultery is almost always an act of New Age self-actualization for women like Jane.  If its good for the gander…? Perhaps even more problematic, when a young male romantic rival is a little light in the masculinity department, he is often given more tattoos than the general population of San Quentin.  Meet Caleb, who appears to have a heavy metal album cover inked on his chest. The idea that a womanly woman like Jane would castoff a manly man like Leonard in favor of an immature boy like Caleb is difficult to buy into, no matter how dysfunctional their marriage might be.

Again, it is all lovely to behold. Kate Bosworth is stunningly gorgeous as Jane, looking like a porcelain doll, but unfortunately giving her the personality to match.  There are a lot of longing stares in AWWWH that do not add up to much.  However, Iddo Goldberg nearly saves the day as Leonard.  His big confrontation scene with Bosworth is smartly written and scathingly honest.  It pops, while the rest of the film mostly ambles in the sun.

Arguably, the sum of the film’s parts is greater than its whole.  Whether in color or black-and-white, cinematographer Doug Chamberlain can certainly frame a striking image.  The classical score is also richly lush yet emotionally resonate, representing career best work from composer Mateo Messina.  Despite the sophisticated sights and sounds, as well as Goldberg’s powerful performance, AWWWH never rouses from its lethargy or overcomes the by-the-numbers elements of its familiar narrative.  Mildly recommended for those who love Italy and 1960’s Italian cinema, And While We Were Here opens today (9/13) in New York at the Cinema Village.

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