A Big­ger Splash

HK Magazine - - FILM -

Artist David Hock­ney’s best-known work is “A Big­ger Splash”— an out­wardly sim­ple paint­ing of a splash ris­ing from a blue swimming pool. The spray of wa­ter ex­plodes out­wards, a thrill of en­er­getic white that jars against the calm, hard sur­round­ings. Luca Guadagnino’s English-lan­guage de­but “A Big­ger Splash” cap­tures that self­same con­trast: It’s a lay­ered, sus­pense­ful drama in which the cast bursts against harsh wa­ters; a splash of sun, sex and self-ob­ses­sion.

Mar­i­anne Lane (Tilda Swin­ton) is a world-fa­mous star—a Bowie-es­que glam rocker who’s re­cu­per­at­ing at a re­mote Ital­ian is­land villa after vo­cal chord surgery. She can’t talk in any­thing more than a croak, and her days are oc­cu­pied in a dis­tinctly un-rock­star fash­ion: silent sun­bathing or trips to the beach with her boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoe­naerts), a re­served doc­u­men­tary-maker. It’s all very calm and lovely un­til they get a call out of the blue: Land­ing at the air­port in just five min­utes is Harry (Ralph Fi­ennes), an old, dis­so­lute flame of Mar­i­anne’s. He’s a fan­tas­ti­cally ir­ri­tat­ing he­do­nist, for­ever throw­ing him­self at the next pretty woman or throw­ing off his clothes to skinny dip. He’s also brought a hanger-on—his newly dis­cov­ered daugh­ter Pene­lope (Dakota John­son), a Lolita-es­que fig­ure who’s not quite the sul­try temptress she’d like to think she is.

Paul is in­tensely an­noyed by the in­ter­rup­tion to Mar­i­anne’s re­cu­per­a­tion, but the fad­ing singer her­self can’t help but feel nostal­gic for her wilder past, as in­car­nated in Harry. And, nee­dled by Harry’s ob­vi­ous in­ter­est in Mar­i­anne, Paul finds him­self drawn to Pene­lope.

“A Big­ger Splash” is a loose re­make of Jac­ques Deray’s 1969 French film “La Piscine,” and this film shares the orig­i­nal’s sim­mer­ing sen­su­al­ity, sub­merged just un­der the sur­face. It’s gor­geously shot, and amid the hard col­ors of this quiet Ital­ian is­land, the harsh mid­day sun and in­tense close-ups give our ac­tors nowhere to hide.

And it’s the ac­tors who re­ally carry this piece. Swin­ton, who barely speaks at all, gives a won­der­ful per­for­mance as the rock star who, whilst tired of per­form­ing, can’t help lov­ing Harry’s per­for­ma­tive vul­gar­ity. Ralph Fi­ennes lends this washed-up old roué an ob­scene charm, while Matthias Shoe­naarts’ Paul nails the boyfriend try­ing to han­dle his own jeal­ousy, giv­ing his role a pow­er­ful depth. Dakota John­son doesn’t shine quite as

(Italy/France) Thriller. Di­rected by Luca Guadagnino. Star­ring Tilda Swin­ton, Matthias Schoe­naerts, Ralph Fi­ennes, Dakota John­son. Cat­e­gory IIB. 125 min­utes. Opened June 16.

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