By Staci Layne Wilson
Bowie-esque rock legend Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is recuperating from a long, hard tour on the volcanic island of Pantelleria in Sicily with her lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), when iconoclast record producer and flamboyant old flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) unexpectedly arrives with his seductive, illegitimate daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) in tow. Harry gleefully and willfully interrupts his ex’s holiday, bringing with him an A-bomb blast of nostalgia wrapped in riddles that will eventually lead to the untimely death of one of them.
While there’s a swinging 70’s feel to the proceedings – Swinton, who starred in a David Bowie music video, and has done fashion shoots dressed as him, is very glam, very chameleon-like; and Fiennes, is balls-to-the-wall arena rock, convincingly channeling an insider of The Rolling Stones in their Emotional Rescue era – the movie is imbued with director Luca Guadagnino’s pure punk attitude.
A Bigger Splash was inspired by a French art thriller from the 60’s called La Piscine, but it also takes some subtle cues from Patricia Highsmith’s mysteries as events build to a climax. Movies like A Bigger Splash are few and far between. It is not mainstream. But if you are familiar with New Wave and arty Eurotrash and you like that sort of thing – and with a plot you can actually follow! – then this is definitely going to be one of the best, not to mention most sexually-charged and cerebral, flicks you’ll see this year.
Songs and style drip from every frame of the film, like the sweat of a guitar virtuoso onstage. Director of Photography Yorick Le Saux – who also shot the gorgeous rock ‘n roll vampire romance starring Swinton, 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive – is a virtuoso of visuals. Every scene is pure passion in pictures. From the angles of a woman’s cheekbones to her hipbones and from the chop of the Mediterranean Sea to the jut of the volcanic rocks inland, Le Saux exploits the beauty to be found in even the most sordid situations.
An old flower-power rock ‘n roll idiom, courtesy of lyricist Neil Young is, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” While A Bigger Splash does sort of fade away in the end, it’s still a long, strange trip worth taking. Crank it up!
2 Hours 4 Minutes
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A BIGGER SPLASH Review — Movie Trailer
A BIGGER SPLASH Review — Dive Right In!
by Staci Layne Wilson