Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Slamdance ’16: Last Summer
Plenty of divorcing couples have used
their kids to inflict pain on each other, but this entitled princeling has been
weaponized particularly cruelly. His Japanese mother has lost all custody and
visitation rights to her well-heeled western ex-husband. Franky, the helplessly
spoiled Kenzaburo (Ken) does not seem like much of a prize, but his mother’s
love remains unabated. Unfortunately, she only has four days to say her
goodbyes for the next eleven years in Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli’s Last Summer (trailer here), which
screened during the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival.
Although the precise details are never
revealed, it is strongly implied mental health struggles and her ex-husband’s wealth
brought Naomi to this point. Presumably, those pills she pops in the morning
are not vitamins. Clearly, her history was used against her in court and with
the four man crew of the luxury yacht provided for Naomi’s farewell visit.
Although Alex the captain remains rather open-minded, Eva the steward and
Rebecca the surrogate nanny are clearly looking to undermine any last hopes
Naomi might have of forging a connection with Ken.
This could have easily been the stuff of
Lifetime channel melodrama, but Seràgnoli
goes for broke with his rarified art cinema approach and largely pulls it off. Gianfilippo
Cortelli’s cinematography has the lush glossiness of a fashion magazine spread
that perfectly suits the graceful simplicity of Milena Canonero’s frocks.
Canonero’s production design team perfectly conveys the ironically austere vibe
of the ultra-chic trappings. (Indeed, the yacht is a trap, for both the aching
mother and the problematically passive son).
As stylishly produced as Summer is, the key that makes it work is
Rinko Kikuchi’s quiet but violently powerful performance as Naomi. The one-two
punch of her vulnerability and beauty is absolutely heart-stopping. This is not
a dialogue-heavy film, but you can read it all in her eyes.
Kikuchi also develops some wonderfully
ambiguous chemistry with Yorik van Wageningen’s increasingly sympathetic
Captain Alex. In fact, the shifting crew dynamics are quite subtly rendered,
adding further layers to the hothouse atmosphere. Initially, young Ken Brady
does not make much of an impression, but he duly comes out of his shell when
Naomi starts to reach his privileged character.
Can you imagine how much this kid will
hate his father when he turns eighteen and discovers the old man has been keeping
him from his elegant and soulful mother? Seràgnoli
and his celebrated co-scripters, Banana Yoshimoto and Italian graphic novelist
Igort give us hope it just might come to that eventually, while scrupulously
avoiding any phony sentimental cop-outs. Thanks to Kikuchi, it is a lovely
little chamber drama. Recommended as a satisfying indulgence for sophisticated
audiences, Last Summer screened at
this year’s Slamdance, but it is sure to turn up at subsequent festivals given
the talent involved.
Labels: Rinko Kikuchi, Slamdance '16